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Publisher's Summary

One of the best-loved of Nabokov's novels, Pnin features his funniest and most heart-rending character. Professor Timofey Pnin is a haplessly disoriented Russian emigre precariously employed on an American college campus in the 1950s. Pnin struggles to maintain his dignity through a series of comic and sad misunderstandings, all the while falling victim both to subtle academic conspiracies and to the manipulations of a deliberately unreliable narrator.

Initially an almost grotesquely comic figure, Pnin gradually grows in stature by contrast with those who laugh at him. Whether taking the wrong train to deliver a lecture in a language he has not mastered or throwing a faculty party during which he learns he is losing his job, the gently preposterous hero of this enchanting novel evokes the listener's deepest protective instinct. 

Serialized in The New Yorker and published in book form in 1957, Pnin brought Nabokov both his first National Book Award nomination and hitherto unprecedented popularity. 

Public Domain (P)2010 Audible, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically." (John Updike)

What listeners say about Pnin

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  • Overall
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    4 out of 5 stars

Why not leave their private sorrows to people?

“Why not leave their private sorrows to people? Is sorrow not, one asks, the only thing in the world people really possess?”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin

This isn't just the last nail in my Nabokov coffin, this is the ground thrown on the coffin. Finito sweet benito. I've now read all his ficiton (both those written in Russian and translated into English later and those written in English). It is kinda sad. But so too is Pnin. I'd call the novel melancholy, but it isn't quite sad or melancholy. There is something too sweet and funny and eccentric to be easily categorized. It is Nabokov's Don Quixote novel. His protagonist is a professor of Russian barely holding on in a fictionalized university (modeled a bit on Cornell). He isn't exactly absent minded. In fact, his mind is almost too much there. But there is something romantic and lovely about him.

The prose was beautiful and a couple chapters were near perfection. Chapter 5: Pnin drives to The Pines was amazing. I also adored the just barely intrusive narrator V.V. (Vladimir Vladimirovich). The novel wasn't my favorite Nabokov (Ada, Lolita, Pale Fire are all way better), but it is lovey and deserves a strong presence on Nabokov's slightly dusty second shelf.

7 people found this helpful

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beautiful stuff

a beautiful book by Vladimir Nabokov read with expertise by Stefan Rudnicki. I cannot reccomend it enough.

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Really good.

Pnin is my favorite of Nabokov's novels. Yes, yes, yes, Lolita has some of the most piercing linguistic insight into American Vernacular but I always come back to Pnin. Rudnicki was good. The execution of accent and bold, baritone didacticism of narration do the text justice. Read/ Listen to Pnin and laugh a warming tear from your eye as you marvel at a man, long from a home he may only remember, with all the uncertainty memory demands, straining his understanding of America to the point of well portioned, potion like, mesmerism.

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Nabokov’s a genius; Rudnicki must narrate all of Nabokov’s works.

I purchased the audio CD several years ago and loved it. Was wonderfully surprised that Audible had finally added it.
Mr. Rudnicki should be hired to record all of Nabokov’s extant works, ESPECIALLY “Lolita.”

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Less than stellar performance

I enjoyed the story of Pnin just like I enjoy anything written by Nabokov. However, while the narrator has very pleasant voice, the performance was ruined by a horrific pronunciation of Russian words which are quite abundant in the story. One may think that knowing the content of the book the narrator should have consulted somebody who actually speaks Russian and possibly practice a bit before undertaking such job.

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Possibly my favorite Nabokov novel

Hilariously well read. Pnin has been one of my favorite Nabokov stories for the last 2 decades, and I’ve read most of his work. It’s hilarious, sweet and sometimes sad, with both an endearing main character and a fun though suspicious narrator. It captures the immigrant story that is still so prevalent and relevant to the current world situation.

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A whimsical character study

Pnin is an excellent book. Short but very dense. It has a humorous tone that makes the book fly by. All hail Nabokov!

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A charming book

The emotional range of this book is unexpectedly wide; from hilarious to tearful. Overall it was enjoyable and I loved the character Pnin, eccentric as he may have been. The narrator's tone and flow was great, but it would have been better if he read the Russian part more accurately.