Invitation to a Beheading, Vladimir Nabokov, 1939
I returned to this novel after several decades on the recommendation of Ali Smith who said it was the ‘last great book’ she read in the NYT By the Book interview on February 12, 2017. She described reading Nabokov as “knowing what safe hands you’re in speeding along the unsafe edge of the curve high up the side of the mountain.” What a marvelous description of his writing!!! Nabokov was an expert on totalitarian regimes having been chased from his family’s land by the Bolsheviks in 1917 and from Berlin by the Nazis in the 1930’s. He turns that knowledge into this farcical allegory of Cincinnatus imprisoned in a fortress for a crime of being a real person, a condition that he first recognized in childhood though now at 30 he is being punished for it. His individuality, self-awareness, and reality testing are in stark contrast to the buffoons and bumblers who are his jailers and executioners. The book is classic Nabokov with many neologisms and surreal characters and settings. My copy was published in 1965 and priced at $1.65, a great buy.