Despair was first published (in Russian) in 1936, Nabokov edited and revised it for the English translation in 1965. This is the second Nabokov novel that I have read, the first was Lolita; although, I do own Pale Fire and Invitation to a Beheading. I absolutely despise Lolita and am not sure that Despair is any better of a novel. I do want to read The Defense. I do not honestly know how much more Nabokov I can take – if The Defense is no good, I swear off of the author forever.
I know that by saying anything against Nabokov, it is almost as if I am making myself into some sort of literature-pariah and that I chance no one taking seriously anything that I further say. Make no mistake, I understand Nabokov’s literature – I understand his writing, the allegories, themes, color, lyricism, etc. I just do not like it. I find his writing to be tedious, interruptive, stupid, and immoral. Without a doubt, the feeling I get from reading Nabokov’s writing is that he is unbearably arrogant and obnoxious.
I have read Russians – the classic group of them (no need to list them) – and I think they are the greatest of writers. Nabokov does not deserve, in my opinion, to be counted among them. I never can see what readers find in his work. I am beginning to suspect that actually no one really likes his work, they just feel it is their duty to nod their heads and agree with everyone else. I cannot be one of those people – I dislike Nabokov’s writing and reserve the right to do so in the future.
Reading Despair was a chore. It was a bore – I hated the narrator-character immensely. Actually, there wasn’t a single character I liked at all. The writing (supposedly that of the main character) was wretched and all over the place (presumably to designate his state of mind or WHATEVER…) but through it all, once again, seeped Nabokov’s wretched arrogance.
So, why did the main character plot and carry out his own murder? Was it for the insurance money? The thrill of it all? Because he fancied himself part of the great mystery-drama that he was writing? Frankly, I just don’t care. I am sure in stuffy classrooms across the globe students attempt to plum possible responses to these questions for their mid-term papers. However, I just don’t care why the character did it.
Maybe there was no actual murder and such. Maybe it was all part of the story-within-a-story. Again, I really don’t give a rip. Just like the idea that the main character has a double who looks like him – but only to him. Everyone else fails to see the resemblance. Was there a resemblance or wasn’t there? And just why does the main character think there is one? And, most importantly, does anyone care? Not I, surely.
I was uninterested in the tribulations of a self-congratulatory author (main character), the arrogance of Nabokov’s writing, the attempts at vaguely replaying Crime & Punishment, the pseudo-mental anguish of the main character. Nabokov, you waste my time – I despair of reading any more of your works.