July 21, 2014
The Luzhin Defense by Vladimir Nabokov (Review)
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
First published: 1930
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Nabokov may be one of my favourite authors, although I can't say I've read a lot of his works. But his writing... You fall in love with it immediately. If you've read him, you know what I mean. He's also from the Russian emigrant culture, which he describes to perfection. There's this bitter feeling of having no place to call home, of not belonging anywhere, of being lost and unsure of anything in all his works that I can really relate to. I also admire him because he wrote in two languages - Russian and English, and Lolita he written in both. How cool is that? Anyway, I had high expectations for The Luzhin Defence, and I was well rewarded.
The story revolves around the life of an outstanding chess player, starting with his miserable childhood and building up to a major emotional breakdown. There's nothing more to say about the plot, as it's a very psychological book. The main character is not likable, but the workings of his brain are so unique that it's totally impossible to put the book down. The woman that appears in his life is (to me) an even more interesting character, as her choices explain so much about the nature of a woman's love.
I couldn't help being reminded of Zweig's Chess Story while reading The Luzhin Defence. I know, they deal with slightly different things, but they are both about chess and madness, so I think it's fair to compare them. And my verdict is that in spite of my love to Nabokov, Chess Story was more gripping and intense. Nabokov's character background is more profound, but Zweig's madness description is more engrossing and impressive. But certainly both are awesome books, and I'd recommend both to anybody.
In my book:
Another great Nabokov novel. Highly recommended.