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Invitation to a Beheading

by Vladimir Nabokov

Translated by Dmitri Nabokov

November 21, 1999

Though not quite finished yet with the Sholokhov book yet, I picked up another, quite different Russian novel in the Bridgehampton used book store yesterday; I was so enchanted by a quick look at the author's preface (and on the basis of my past experience with Nabokovia) that I wanted to dig into it right away. I will let the Don flow along at its steady pace, and finish reading about it in good time.

Later that evening

Just a few pages into Chapter One, and the revelations are flying fast and furious. I can see both why reviewers would have compared it to Kafka, and why Nabokov would have denied the comparison. On page 12 (the second page of text) is a beautiful description of Cincinnatus' life as a nearly-finished novel.

November 23, 1999

Spent today mostly thinking about Cincinnatus' crime.

December 4, 1999

Cincinnatus anticipates his decapitation as having a tooth pulled; which makes me think about Platonic dualism.

December 9, 1999

Reading about Cincinnatus' interview with Marthe made me think about romanticism, which brought me up against a common (for me) stumbling block.

December 13, 1999

I'm trying to figure out what's the point of loathing Cincinnatus.

December 15, 1999

Reading about Cincinnatus and Emmie made me think of Humbert and Lo.

January 4, 2000

I felt a shock of recognition today as I read the final sentence in Cincinnatus' diary.