Pnin

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Pnin

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1RoseCityReader
Okt. 18, 2007, 2:27pm

I am halfway through and loving every bit of it. Nabakov has such a sense for the goofy! The squirrel? The obsession with drafts and "sonic disturbance"? Funny stuff.

But, how do I pronounce Pnin?

2enevada
Bearbeitet: Okt. 18, 2007, 4:23pm

As with all things Nabokov the answer is never simple. Here is his answer to that very question from a 1965 interview:

The "p" is sounded, that's all. But since the "p" is mute
in English words starting w-ith "pn", one is prone to insert a
supporting "uh" sound-- "Puh-- nin"-- which is wrong. To get
the "pn" right, try the combination "Up North", or still better
"Up, Nina!", leaving out the initial "u". Pnorth, Pnina, Pmn.
Can you do that? . . . That's fine.

3enevada
Bearbeitet: Okt. 18, 2007, 4:37pm

And while we are at, from that same interview, the definitive word on how to pronounce his name:

It is indeed a tricky name. It is often misspelt, because the eye tends to regard the "a" of the first syllable as a misprint and then tries to restore the symmetrical sequence by triplicating the "o"-- filling up the row of circles, so to speak, as in a game of crosses and naughts. No-bow-cough. How ugly, how wrong.

Every author whose name is fairly often mentioned in periodicals develops a bird-watcher's or caterpillar-picker's knack when scanning an article. But in my case I always get caught by the word "nobody" when capitalized at the beginning of a sentence. As to pronunciation, Frenchmen of course say “Nabokoff” with the accent on the last
syllable. Englishmen say “Nabokov” accent on the first, and Italians say Nabokov, accent in the middle, as Russians also do. Na-bo-kov. A heavy open "o" as in "Knickerbocker". My New England ear is not offended by the long elegant middle "o" of Nabokov as delivered in American academies. The awful "Na-bah-kov" is a despicable gutterism.

Well, you can make your choice now. Incidentally, the first name is pronounced Vladeemer-- rhyming with "redeemer"-- not
Vladimir rhyming with Faddimere (a place in England, I think).

4timspalding
Okt. 19, 2007, 1:37am

Pnin is my favorite novel. There, I've said it.

5enevada
Okt. 19, 2007, 9:06am

Oh, is it confession time?

Pale Fire is mine. (I'm so sorry Marcel, but the word count, you know?)

What do I get - ten Our Fathers and six Hail Marys - or the reverse?

6barney67
Okt. 19, 2007, 12:28pm

He sounds like a real Russian smart aleck.

And butterfly collector.

7enevada
Okt. 19, 2007, 12:50pm

The smartest of alecks. A world class lepidopterologist, and according to himself (from his obit in the NYT):

"... a mild old gentleman, very kind."

This very kind, mild old gentleman could kill a man with a cleverly turned phrase. Just look at what he had to say about Freud:

"I reject completely the vulgar, shabby, fundamentally medieval world of Freud with its crankish quest for sexual symbols (something like searching for Baconian acrostics in Shakespeare's works) and its bitter little embryos spying from their natural nooks upon the love life of their parents."

I think the only nice thing about him was his wife, Vera. And she was a pretty tough SOB herself, when it came to Volyoda.

8RoseCityReader
Okt. 20, 2007, 1:12pm

Oh, I loved it! I finished this morning. I was a little sad for our friend Pnin there at the end.

What a wonderful book! Like enevada, I give the nod to Pale Fire, but only because I think Pale Fire is a literary one off with no comparison. But for a straightforward novel, Pnin is a delight.

I still can't get the name right, though. I get the role of the "P" now, thanks to the explanation in No. 2, but I keep saying P-ninn, rhymes with Inn, rather than P-neen. And as for "Nabokov," my ear hears no difference between the "o" as in "Knickerbocker" and an awful "Na-bah-kov."

Nabokov's meticulous pronunciation guides (and there are many in Pnin as well as those above) are another reason I enjoy him so much. I live with an unusual and difficult to pronounce first name, an uncommon and unpronounceable German maiden name, and a tricky to pronounce French married name, so I have spent my life in "sounds like . . . rhymes with . . . emphasis on . . ." conversations. I laugh when I read Nabokov's instructions.

9citygirl
Apr. 17, 2008, 1:45pm

I have finished Pnin. I look forward to rereading it in the future, as I do with everything N. wrote. I am bit puzzled about the shift in the middle to Victor's pov. I wanted to know more about Victor. I also wanted Pnin to find some way to exact revenge on his persecutors (or did I just miss it?).

After reading the notes on pronunciation above I feel a bit hopeless. I can do "Pnin" more easily than "Nabokov." Perhaps audiorecordings will help.