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Laughter in the Dark – Vladimir Nabokov



Posted September 3, 2016 by

Laughter in the Dark – Vladimir Nabokov – 1932

Reviewed by: Julia Karlysheva     Date: 10 June 2002

A evocative and playful novel, ‘Laughter in the Dark’ is a tragic account of love, obsession, trickery, physical and moral blindness within the life of a middle-aged man: Albert Albinus. This ‘play within a play’ is decorated with delusions and revelations and concealed insights into the author’s personal role as a writer. Full of psychological explorations this book has become one of Nabokov’s best known and loved achievements.”


Reviewed by: Lale       Date: 8 July 2001

“Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster.”

This is the first paragraph of Laughter in the Dark. Nabokov gives us the synopsis, even the end of the book, right at the beginning. Then starts the simple, yet beautiful narration of a lethal obsession. The sad story of a man who can be very reasonable about every aspect of life unless it has got anything to do with the youthful mistress. When it comes to the 18-year-old femme fatale, he is void of all logic and sense, and cruel to those whom he once loved.

It is impossible to give a summary of the book without giving away its twists and turns, and there are quite a few of them. Here is how one of the main characters react to a divergence in the story:

‘A certain man once lost a diamond cuff-link in the wide blue sea, and twenty years later, on the exact day, a Friday apparently, he was eating a large fish – but there was no diamond inside. That’s what I like about coincidence.’

Nabokov’s writing is uncomplicated, sincere and very engrossing. This is my first Nabokov. Once started, I couldn’t put it down. When I finished the book late last night, I was so shaken that I couldn’t go to sleep. I was at once entranced and disturbed by the book. Entranced by Nabokov’s ability to sustain the suspense of a story he so shrewdly summarizes at the very beginning. Disturbed by the fact that such obsessions are real and in existence.

ReadLit Team


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