Bend it like Nabokov

4 05 2019

Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov



The state has been recently taken over and is being run by the tyrannical and philistine ‘Average Man’ party. Under the slogans of equality and happiness for all, it has done away with individualism and freedom of thought. Only John Krug, a brilliant philosopher, stands up to the regime. His antagonist, the leader of the new party, is his old school enemy, Paduk – known as the ‘Toad’. Grieving over his wife’s recent death, Krug is at first dismissive of Paduk’s activities and sees no threat in them. But the sinister machine which Paduk has set in motion may prove stronger than the individual, stronger even than the grotesque ‘Toad’ himself.

No, it’s not the (outstandingly good) album by The Fall, but a remarkable Nabokov novel which I only came across recently. Written just after the last war it nevertheless feels very topical and relevant. The philosopher Krug is far from a likeable hero but he nevertheless impresses through his resistance against the tyranny of his former school mate. It’s a powerful book and rather dark and troubling.


four stars

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