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"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." Thus begins Vladimir Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark; this, the author tells us, is the whole story except that he starts from here, with his char "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." Thus begins Vladimir Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark; this, the author tells us, is the whole story except that he starts from here, with his characteristic dazzling skill and irony, and brilliantly turns a fable into a chilling, original novel of folly and destruction. Amidst a Weimar-era milieu of silent film stars, artists, and aspirants, Nabokov creates a merciless masterwork as Albinus, an aging critic, falls prey to his own desires, to his teenage mistress, and to Axel Rex, the scheming rival for her affections who finds his greatest joy in the downfall of others. Published first in Russian as Kamera Obskura in 1932, this book appeared in Nabokov's own English translation six years later. This New Directions edition, based on the text as Nabokov revised it in 1960, features a new introduction by Booker Prize-winner John Banville.


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"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." Thus begins Vladimir Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark; this, the author tells us, is the whole story except that he starts from here, with his char "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." Thus begins Vladimir Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark; this, the author tells us, is the whole story except that he starts from here, with his characteristic dazzling skill and irony, and brilliantly turns a fable into a chilling, original novel of folly and destruction. Amidst a Weimar-era milieu of silent film stars, artists, and aspirants, Nabokov creates a merciless masterwork as Albinus, an aging critic, falls prey to his own desires, to his teenage mistress, and to Axel Rex, the scheming rival for her affections who finds his greatest joy in the downfall of others. Published first in Russian as Kamera Obskura in 1932, this book appeared in Nabokov's own English translation six years later. This New Directions edition, based on the text as Nabokov revised it in 1960, features a new introduction by Booker Prize-winner John Banville.

30 review for Laughter in the Dark

  1. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Original published under the name 'Camera Obscura', Vladimir Nabokov was so displeased with the quality of it's first English translation in 1936 he personally took to changing it under the now title 'Laughter in the Dark' and this becomes the first foreign novel I have read that was actually translated by the writer himself. And If there's one thing that strikes me about Nabokov, it's the impression I get that his mind was never too far away from lust and desire, whether that be writing, having Original published under the name 'Camera Obscura', Vladimir Nabokov was so displeased with the quality of it's first English translation in 1936 he personally took to changing it under the now title 'Laughter in the Dark' and this becomes the first foreign novel I have read that was actually translated by the writer himself. And If there's one thing that strikes me about Nabokov, it's the impression I get that his mind was never too far away from lust and desire, whether that be writing, having a stiff drink or going to fetch the morning paper. Dealing with similar themes although to a different developed effect with that of his 1955 masterpiece 'Lolita', Laughter in the Dark takes place mainly in Berlin and centres on seemingly happily married art critic Albinus, who after visiting a cinema catches sight of young aspiring actress Margot, who works there. He can't shake the thought of her from his mind and returns, eventually seducing her, and takes her as his mistress. After Elisabeth the wife of Albinus discovers his entanglement with Margot she takes their daughter Irma and leaves, opening the door for the couple to evolve. However to help with her dreams of hitting the big screen, Margot hatches a plan with former lover Axel Rex to deceive him while on a trip to France, with terrible consequences. This is ultimately a tragically comic love story, although I found it far more tragic than funny, his daughter Irma would fall seriously ill and Albinus has lingering thoughts of trying to rekindle his dying marriage, but Margot turns into a nympho to fulfil his sexual appetite and wants him to get a divorce. The middle third of the novel takes on quite a sad feel and left a lump in my throat. The actions of Albinus at times seem farcical, while Margot takes to playing a sort of femme fatale with her manipulating mannerisms. Nabokov's narrative has the most precise pacing, and is decisive, witty but with a slightly morbid sensibility. Would have loved to see the characters and story developed even further as they were just so readable. I simply craved for more!. Anyway, a fabulous novel, one of his very best.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ahmad Sharabiani

    Камера обскура [Camera Obskura] = Laughter in the Dark, Vladimir Nabokov Laughter in the Dark (Original Russian title: Камера обскура, Camera obscura) is a novel written by Vladimir Nabokov and serialised in Sovremennye Zapiski in 1932. The book deals with the affection of a middle-aged man for a very young woman, resulting in a mutually parasitic relationship. In 1955, Nabokov used this theme again with Lolita to a much differently developed effect. Albinus is a respected, reasonably happy marrie Камера обскура [Camera Obskura] = Laughter in the Dark, Vladimir Nabokov Laughter in the Dark (Original Russian title: Камера обскура, Camera obscura) is a novel written by Vladimir Nabokov and serialised in Sovremennye Zapiski in 1932. The book deals with the affection of a middle-aged man for a very young woman, resulting in a mutually parasitic relationship. In 1955, Nabokov used this theme again with Lolita to a much differently developed effect. Albinus is a respected, reasonably happy married art critic who lives in Berlin. He lusts after the 17-year-old Margot whom he meets at a cinema, where she works, and seduces her over the course of many encounters. His prolonged affair with Margot is eventually revealed to Albinus's wife Elisabeth when Margot deliberately sends a letter to the Albinuses' residence and Albert is unable to intercept it before it is discovered. This results in the dissolution of the Albinuses' marriage. Rather than disown the young troublemaker, he is even more attracted to her. Margot uses him to become a film star, fulfilling her ambition in life. Albinus introduces Margot to Axel Rex, but he does not know that the two have previously been lovers. Margot and Rex resume their relationship, and start plotting to get Albinus out of the way and rob him of his money. Rex sees the opportunities that Albinus's infatuation with Margot produces, and understands that even a great risk means little to the blind and helpless, in love, in loss, and in dwindling fortune. Albinus gets Margot her first role as an actress, but she does not appear to be very talented. In fact, what she possesses in beauty is best captured by the imagination rather than even a still camera. Only Albinus's wealth ensures that she gets to play her role. Margot realizes that she has played the role poorly and Albinus worries about her reaction. Rex, however, adores seeing the girl from the streets suffer and takes the opportunity to exploit her ineptitude. After Margot becomes upset when viewing the film, Albinus coaxes her into taking a holiday to the south. They rent a hotel room and, after a chance encounter with an old friend, Albinus happens to surmise that Margot and Rex are engaged in an affair. He has always been envious of Rex in the belief that he is the truest of artists, unlike him. He has stolen beautiful young things from Albinus his whole life, and this is no different. Albinus steals away with Margot and leaves Rex at the hotel. On their journey out of town, Albinus, a self-proclaimed poor driver, crashes the car and is blinded, leaving him in need of care and oblivious to the world around him. Rex and Margot take advantage of his handicap, and rent a chalet in Switzerland where Rex poses as Albinus's doctor, although Albinus is unaware of Rex's presence. Unknown to Albinus, he is mocked and tortured during his recovery. He becomes increasingly suspicious as his ears become more attuned and he perceives someone's presence, but his fears are never confirmed. Paul, a friend to the family, suspects forgery (Rex and Margot have been bleeding Albinus's accounts dry by forging his signature on cheques), drives to the residence and discovers Rex toying with Albinus in his blinded state. Paul then escorts Albinus back to the home of his ex-wife Elisabeth. After a short time, Albinus receives a call informing him that Fraulein Peters (Margot) has returned to his flat to collect some things. Knowing that she is coming, he decides to kill her. Without haste, he makes his way to the flat and traps her inside by barricading the door, intending to shoot her with his pistol. He seeks her out by her scent and faint sounds, but when he tries to shoot her she overpowers him, grabs the pistol, and ... تاریخ نخستین خوانش: ماه آوریل سال 2005میلادی عنوان: خنده در تاریکی؛ نویسنده: ولادیمیر ناباکف (ناباکوف)؛ مترجم: محمداسماعیل فلزی؛ تهران، هیرمند، 1382در 296ص؛ شابک 9644080009؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان روسیه - سده 20م مترجم امیر نیک فرجام، ، تهران، مروارید، 1383، در 247ص؛ شابک ایکس - 964588179؛ چاپ چهارم 1385؛ کتاب «خنده در تاریکی»؛ روایت ولخرجی با محبت یک مرد میانسال، برای یک زن بسیار جوان، و زیباروی است؛ «ناباکوف» این رمان را در سال 1932میلادی نوشتند؛ در طی هفت دهه پس از نگارش همین رمان، نقدهای بسیاری در مورد آن نوشته شده، و فیلمی هم بر اساس همین داستان ساخته شده است؛ «خنده در تاریکی»، از آن دست داستانهایی ست، که بسیار شنیده، و خوانده، و شاهدش بوده ایم؛ «ناباکوف» خود به طنز، به همین نکته اشاره میکنند، که کل داستان را میتوان در چند خط شرح داد، به جایی هم برنمیخورد: روزی روزگاری، در شهر «برلین آلمان»، مردی زندگی میکرد؛ به نام «آلبینوس»؛ او متمول و محترم، و خوشبخت بود، یکروز همسرش را به خاطر دختری جوان، ترک کرد، عشق ورزید، مورد بیمهری قرار گرفت، و زندگی اش در بدبختی، و فلاکت به پایان رسید. (ص یک)؛ داستان به شیوه ی دانای کل روایت میشود، که نمایانگر طنز سیاه «ناباکوف» است؛ «ناباکوف» در توصیف شخصیتها، لحنی طعنه آمیز دارند، و در جای جای داستان، که خود به عنوان راوی، حضوری در پرانتز دارند؛ اغلب نکته هایی را با لحنی کنایه آمیز، به نقالی خود میافزایند، تا بدبینی ایشان را، پررنگتر نشان دهد؛ «ناباکوف» با نثری ساده، و روان، و سرراست، و به دور از پیچیدگیهای فرمی، و روایی، و با لحنی بدبینانه، یا شاید هم واقع بینانه، تلاش میکنند، تا واقعیتهای تلخی را به ثبت برسانند تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 25/09/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی

  3. 4 out of 5

    Violet wells

    Probably Nabokov's most accessible novel and in some ways a precursor to the later Lolita. The opening paragraph gives us a precis of the entire story: "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." It was interesting to discover he was unhappy with the English translation and so, five years later in 1938, decided to Probably Nabokov's most accessible novel and in some ways a precursor to the later Lolita. The opening paragraph gives us a precis of the entire story: "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." It was interesting to discover he was unhappy with the English translation and so, five years later in 1938, decided to translate it himself. It's come to light that he rewrote much of it in the process and that the original version was actually a rather shoddy affair. Lucky for him, more of a stickler for perfection than virtually any other writer, all but a handful of already sold copies were destroyed when a German bomb destroyed the warehouse during the Blitz. Thus, this was his first novel written in English. Albinus is an aesthete, overly susceptible to experiences of the eye. He first sees Margot in a cinema. She is, both literally and symbolically, an usherette. All the novel's symbolism is pretty straightforward but deftly handled. The character of Margot allows Nabokov to explore one of his overriding fascinations, human cruelty. The exploitation of helplessness for sadistic kicks. You sense Hollywood stole one of the book's plot ideas and used it as the pivot of more than one famous dark thriller. All in all, a thoroughly satisfying and compelling novel, much simpler in its blueprint than is usual with Nabokov. 4.5 stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Fionnuala

    And so, there I was, sitting in a cinema. The film I was about to see was called ‘Obsession’. As I sat in the dark, I laughed to myself because if there’s one theme I’ve come across a lot in literature, what with Proust and Goethe and Mann, it’s obsession. No surprise then that Albinus, the lead character in the movie, turns out to resemble Proust’s obsessive hero Charles Swann so closely that it’s hard to tell the difference between them. Like Swann, Albinus is a man of private wealth and refined And so, there I was, sitting in a cinema. The film I was about to see was called ‘Obsession’. As I sat in the dark, I laughed to myself because if there’s one theme I’ve come across a lot in literature, what with Proust and Goethe and Mann, it’s obsession. No surprise then that Albinus, the lead character in the movie, turns out to resemble Proust’s obsessive hero Charles Swann so closely that it’s hard to tell the difference between them. Like Swann, Albinus is a man of private wealth and refined tastes who collects art. And not only does he collect the work of famous sixteenth and seventeenth century artists, he also writes articles about them in academic journals exactly as Swann does. However, Albinus dabbles a little in fakes as well; he's interested in paintings that look so much like the originals that no one can tell the difference. Interesting. And so, because of the resemblance to Swann, I was soon on the lookout for the woman Swann obsessed about: Odette de Crécy. Sure enough, a few scenes in, Odette appears - she's an usherette in a cinema coincidentally. Well, not the real Odette but a young woman quite like her called Margot Peters. Margot is poor but ambitious, very ambitious indeed, and there’s something about her pale and fragile beauty that drives Albinus to distraction - he’s as deluded as poor Swann imagining Odette as a Botticelli virgin. Within a few short scenes, Albinus has set Margot up as his mistress and given her lots of money to furnish her new apartment - which she does in a similar style to the one Odette chose for the apartment Swann gave her. And of course Margot’s choice in decor is not what Albinus would have chosen himself; like Charles Swann, he doesn’t really go in for chintz or chinoiserie. And so Margot lies around all day in a chintzy kimono reading cinema magazines. She becomes very bored and soon finds more entertaining things to occupy her days such as shopping and being seen in smart places. Albinus is of course horribly jealous; he wants to know every detail of where she goes and who she speaks to. Swan and Odette all over again. The scenario is so like Proust's it's hard to tell the difference. The other three-quarters of the movie examine just how far from his original life a man’s obsession can take him. There is a certain humour, but it’s all black. …………………………………………………… And so, what you've read so far is a bit of a fake because I didn’t really see a movie. No, most of what I've described can be found in the first section of this book with the very fitting title of Laughter in the Dark. It was written in 1932, and is the earliest Nabokov I’ve read and the only one, apart from Lolita, that doesn’t have some connection with Russia (although there is a lost cigarette case and there’s been such a cigarette case in the background of all Nabokov's Russian novels). This story is set in Berlin, like The Gift, but Albinus and Margot and all the other characters are German rather than Russian. The book reads like a screen play; there’s very little descriptive writing but lots of dialogue, and we always know where the characters are in each scene so that reading is so like sitting in a cinema that it's difficult to tell the difference. There are even film scenes described in detail and some discussions about the difficulties of moving from the silent screen to talkies, all of which made me think that Nabokov must have had some interest in writing screen plays at this point in his career. When I checked up on this, I found that this book had been made into a joint French-British movie in 1969 with the setting changed from 1930s Berlin to 1960s London. I almost expected to find that the title in French would be L'Obsession but it was La Chambre Obscure (the dark room). An excellent title as it turned out.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    Laughter in the Dark is a love story or rather it is a caricature of a love story. And telling the tale Vladimir Nabokov becomes grotesquely melodramatic. The world is the stage and life is a play: The stage manager of this performance was neither God nor the devil. The former was far too gray, and venerable, and old-fashioned; and the latter, surfeited with other people’s sins, was a bore to himself and to others, as dull as rain… in fact, rain at dawn in the prison-court, where some poor imbecil Laughter in the Dark is a love story or rather it is a caricature of a love story. And telling the tale Vladimir Nabokov becomes grotesquely melodramatic. The world is the stage and life is a play: The stage manager of this performance was neither God nor the devil. The former was far too gray, and venerable, and old-fashioned; and the latter, surfeited with other people’s sins, was a bore to himself and to others, as dull as rain… in fact, rain at dawn in the prison-court, where some poor imbecile, yawning nervously, is being quietly put to death for the murder of his grandmother. The hero is an infatuated idealist living with his head in the romantic clouds so he is doomed right from the start… 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. An object of the unbound adoration is a small-minded underage girl that is capable of nothing but to take… “A lovely creature, unquestionably but there is something snakelike about her.” And the happy rival is a cynical and unprincipled rascal… His culture was patchy, but his mind shrewd and penetrating, and his itch to make fools of his fellow men amounted almost to genius. Perhaps the only real thing about him was his innate conviction that everything that had ever been created in the domain of art, science or sentiment, was only a more or less clever trick. Laughter in the Dark is a parable of idealistic blindness: some are born to deceive others and some are born to be deceived.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Well, Laughter in the Dark was by far the worst novel I’ve read by Nabokov. And that’s to say that it was a solidly good, funny, and engaging book. Like many of his novels, the plot is your basic old- man- obsessed- with- inappropriately- aged- girl- who- also- happens- to- be- evil- and- this- as- you- might- guess- ends- in- tragedy and the tone is the only one you can have with such a plot – it’s a very dark comedy. I hope. I found that this book fell into the same category as his other early Well, Laughter in the Dark was by far the worst novel I’ve read by Nabokov. And that’s to say that it was a solidly good, funny, and engaging book. Like many of his novels, the plot is your basic old- man- obsessed- with- inappropriately- aged- girl- who- also- happens- to- be- evil- and- this- as- you- might- guess- ends- in- tragedy and the tone is the only one you can have with such a plot – it’s a very dark comedy. I hope. I found that this book fell into the same category as his other early work that I’ve read, Depair, in that it seems to be an illustration of the timeless author learning the ropes and beginning to understand his interests and abilities. Although it’s no masterpiece, Laughter in the Dark is still a pleasure to read and a great window into how Nabokov developed both his life-long themes and writing tools. To those Nabokov snobs who might say, “Laughter in the Dark is nothing more than a shoddy rendition of Lolita,” I say to you, how many novels did you write in your mother tongue when you were thirty and then translated into a foreign language two years later? I mean, of course it’s not as good as Lolita, which is one of the best books of our time and written in the prime of Nabokov’s genius. But it can still be good. In fact, more than anything, I’d recommend this book to anyone about to board an airplane. The whole time I was reading it, I was almost wishing I had saved it for my next trip. 1. It is printed in a big, easy-to-read font that makes it hard to lose your place even when you get distracted by airplane stuff. 2. It only takes about 3 or 4 hours to read. 3. It has a very fast-moving and weird, deviant plot – so deviant, in fact, that you could probably forget you are flying through the air at dangerous speeds. 4.It makes those around notice that you are interested in early-era Nabokov, which makes you really smart and interesting. They don’t have to know that it’s a pretty easy, fun read filled with weird sex.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Darwin8u

    "Death is often the point of life's joke" ― Vladimir Nabokov, Laughter in the Dark “Death," he had said on another occasion, "seems to be merely a bad habit, which nature is at present powerless to overcome.” ― Vladimir Nabokov, Laughter in the Dark An early Nabokov with many funky allusions to Tolstoy, anticipations and presages of Lolita, and obviously -- plenty of Nabokovian black humor from beginning to end. As a independent work, I don't think it belongs in the top tier of Nabokov's lush ouvr "Death is often the point of life's joke" ― Vladimir Nabokov, Laughter in the Dark “Death," he had said on another occasion, "seems to be merely a bad habit, which nature is at present powerless to overcome.” ― Vladimir Nabokov, Laughter in the Dark An early Nabokov with many funky allusions to Tolstoy, anticipations and presages of Lolita, and obviously -- plenty of Nabokovian black humor from beginning to end. As a independent work, I don't think it belongs in the top tier of Nabokov's lush ouvre, but it seems to me to be a piece where Nabokov establishes his literary sea legs. The genealogy of most of his great later work seem to all thread back to 'Laughter in the Dark'/aka 'Kamera obskura'. In this novel, Nabokov is playing with themes of vision, blindness, truth, deception, art and morality. You see many of Nabokov's later motifs surrounding vision floating (like mouches volantes) through this early work: mirrors, window pains, mimicry, scintillations, semblances, glasses, movies, etc. It wouldn't be Nabokov if he played any of these themes straight. He bends the narrative and plays with Tolstoy's belief that it is "the essential nature of truth to be hidden from, then revealed to, the eyes." Nabokov gives you the goods and gives them to you good and hard right between the eyes.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Paquita Maria Sanchez

    Leave it to Nabokov to strip you of your faith in humanity.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ivana Books Are Magic

    Curiously enough, the first works of Nabokov I read were not fiction but rather literary criticism. I quite enjoyed reading his views on writing and literature. Predictably, it was not before long that I wanted to read his novels as well. I picked up this book years ago and figured it could be a good introduction to Nabokov. To be frank, I just didn’t want to start with Lolita. I wanted something less emotionally exhausting to start Nabokov with. I was also afraid that I won’t be able to finish Curiously enough, the first works of Nabokov I read were not fiction but rather literary criticism. I quite enjoyed reading his views on writing and literature. Predictably, it was not before long that I wanted to read his novels as well. I picked up this book years ago and figured it could be a good introduction to Nabokov. To be frank, I just didn’t want to start with Lolita. I wanted something less emotionally exhausting to start Nabokov with. I was also afraid that I won’t be able to finish Lolita or that it might put me off Nabokov. So, I opted for Laughter in the Dark. There are some similarities between these two novels. Take the protagonists for instance: once again there is an age difference between lovers. There is a girl and an older man, but at least the girl in question is not a minor. The femme fatale of this book is a femme, not an adolescent girl. Young, but not underage. Not a child, although she seems to be able to play that role to get what she wants. What is interesting about this novel is that Nabokov literally reveals the plot right away. In the opening lines Nabokov reveals the basic storyline and yet it doesn't make this novel any less interesting. I have to admit that these opening lines attracted me immediately: “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 whole of the story and we might have left it at that had there not been profit and pleasure in the telling; and although there is plenty of space on a gravestone to contain, bound in moss, the abridged version of a man's life, detail is always welcome.” Details make all the difference, don’t they? Despite the fact that the book reveals both the atmosphere and the plot immediately, it kept my interest from start to finish. Both protagonists are hard to love, but easy to sympathize with. Albinus is a naïve intellectual and his young mistress is cruel and basic. Margot is manipulative, but in an instinctive not a cunning way. Nevertheless, reading about them was very interesting. I suppose it is because they are so human. Margot isn’t the smartest cookie, but she knows how to get what she wants. Albinus is (as the opening lines reveal) someone who loves but isn’t loved in returned- hence he plays the fool. “[...] leaving for a day or two that hopeless sense of loss which makes beauty what it is: a distant lone tree against golden heavens; ripples of light on the inner curve of a bridge; a thing impossible to capture.” I said that I liked how human the protagonists are. That goes for all the characters in the novel. There are no so embellishments in this book, not when it comes to society and human beings. They’re all stripped naked- in the sense that the writer lets you glance into their souls and dig below the surface. Intellectuals and artists- both are sometimes driven by their instincts. Sometimes everything comes down to biology. Instincts, desires, and human urges. Human beings are not always as sophisticated as we would like to believe. We mix impulses with love, gratitude with genuine connection. We fall victims to our desires- over and over again. Laughter in the Dark really is a wonderful novel. I would say it is a successful book chiefly because of Nabokov’s masterful writing. Nabokov prose flows with ease, and his writing is both elegant and easy to follow. Like I already mentioned, as far as the plot goes there is nothing new, everything is revealed at start, and yet Nabokov makes "seen a hundred times story" into something rather fascinating. The characters are poor excuses for human beings most of the time, but it not hard to sympathize with them in spite of that or maybe because of that. Once Albinus leaves his wife for Margot, they live in a somewhat stable relationship. Margot is tempted to cheat but doesn’t want to lose the financial stability she has with Albert. Margot doesn’t want (and probably can’t have children). Albinus does not mind. But how long can their happiness last? At the begging of the novel Albinus is a respected but bored to death man, and in a way Margot saves him from his ‘predictable’ life. However, once Albinus is with Margot he might not be bored, but he doesn’t stop being boring. Margot, an abused child that has grown into a selfish woman is obviously bored in her new relationship. Perhaps predictably, soon another character enters the picture and a triangle is formed. Albinus, a boring intellectual, Margot a young cruel mistress and Rex sadistic artist- quite a love triangle they make. What will happen with the man who loved but wasn’t loved in return? One question remains to haunt me: did Albinus really love Margot? What do you think?

  10. 5 out of 5

    Agnieszka

    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 . That way Nabokov starts Laughter in the dark and in fact these words are enough to describe the plot. Outwardly it is a banal tale of tragicomic romance of older man with young girl. There are loads such stories but this one stands out with acerbity and witticism. Nab 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 . That way Nabokov starts Laughter in the dark and in fact these words are enough to describe the plot. Outwardly it is a banal tale of tragicomic romance of older man with young girl. There are loads such stories but this one stands out with acerbity and witticism. Nabokov is brilliantly ironical and pungent and whole story full of sardonic humour. Laughter in the dark. Indeed. After reading you may only applaud how apt the title is. Though when you're reading how blinded by passion fool changes into the fooled blind laughter gradually sticks in your throat.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    The flawed human. The insecure being who seeks validation. The manipulated partner. The depressed one who seeks happiness in another life, in order to avoid responsibility and routine. The neglectful father. Still, somewhere in the dimly lit pages of this book, there is a woman who has dedicated her life to him, one who sees in him the person he is unable to see, one who has helped him morph into the man he has become, one who understands he is living a delusion. Nabokov dedicated this novel to The flawed human. The insecure being who seeks validation. The manipulated partner. The depressed one who seeks happiness in another life, in order to avoid responsibility and routine. The neglectful father. Still, somewhere in the dimly lit pages of this book, there is a woman who has dedicated her life to him, one who sees in him the person he is unable to see, one who has helped him morph into the man he has become, one who understands he is living a delusion. Nabokov dedicated this novel to his wife Vera. Imagine that. Laughter occurs in the dark, both literally and figuratively, as Albinus goes on a downward spiral after abandoning his wife and child for a lover who is a child herself. Does he love his wife, he does, he thinks, and yet there are things he dislikes, just as there are things he seeks in another. Elisabeth, his wife, is barely seen in this novel; she exists in glimpses, the shell of a woman who is a bit distracted but loyal. The narrative hints at a marriage that also contains a layer of friendship and respect: They had some very delightful trips abroad, and many beautifully soft evenings at home where he sat with her on the balcony high above the blue streets with the wires and chimneys drawn in Indian ink across the sunset, and reflected that he was really happy beyond his deserts. The woman the reader gets to see clearly, however, is Margot, the lover. Like Albinus, she too suffers from feelings of insecurity that stems from a bad childhood. She is an element of the street, one who has gotten accustomed to using her body to get what she wants. Albinus, on the other hand, is a man of high society. This juxtaposition of class and society is something that makes for quite an interesting read, as Albinus is tricked and cheated in ways that are quite humorous, especially given all he has done to his family. He is laughed at in the streets, in his own home; he is mocked by his lover, by someone he considers a friend; he is mocked by all who once knew him. Everywhere, there is laughter, and it happens in the dark, since Albinus is the last one to see it, until suddenly, he had the obscure sensation of everything being suddenly turned the other way round, so that he had to read it all backward if he wanted to understand. It was a sensation devoid of any pain or astonishment. It was simply something dark and looming, and yet smooth and soundless, coming toward him; and there he stood, in a kind of dreamy, helpless stupor, not even trying to avoid that ghostly impact... What makes someone leave a healthy marriage to live in the dark pits of deception, manipulation, and "lust burning a hole in his life?" What enables an intelligent person to ignore the signs of financial abuse, to live in "helpless stupor?" What is it about physical craving that turns 'smart' into some kind of inconceivable 'dumb?' There are deeper, darker paths into the emotional mindset, something that Nabokov explores through Albinus in paced prose that often avoids the lyricism of the Nabokov novel, and yet it has the allure of the sparsity of the Hemingway novel, one that moves through dialogue. Albinus is a tortured and disoriented soul who lives in the dark, always reaching, always wanting more, always living inwardly, so that those around him cannot imagine his humiliation and inner pain.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Sketchbook

    A cyanide comedy. Nabokov scorns "realism," which befuddles many readers who belch that his characters aren't "likeable." How Americans require the likeability factor ! ~ Who's likeable in works by George Etherege or Joe Orton ? C'mon, we're in a world of surrealism and absurdist humor where the tale is meant to be ironic, rueful, mocking. This stinging and hilarious story of cuckoldry and duplicity -- where the protagonist sees nothing (like most people) -- was first published abroad in 1933 A cyanide comedy. Nabokov scorns "realism," which befuddles many readers who belch that his characters aren't "likeable." How Americans require the likeability factor ! ~ Who's likeable in works by George Etherege or Joe Orton ? C'mon, we're in a world of surrealism and absurdist humor where the tale is meant to be ironic, rueful, mocking. This stinging and hilarious story of cuckoldry and duplicity -- where the protagonist sees nothing (like most people) -- was first published abroad in 1933 while US readers devoured Lloyd C Douglas, Edna Ferber, A J Cronin, Pearl Buck, Booth Tarkington and James Hilton. It's an edgy exhibit of jealousy and selfish behavior in which Nabokov impales his blinded characters with a deadly smile. It begins in Berlin with a borrowing fr "The Blue Angel" : an older chap-a married art scholar and a dullard-swoons over a teenage (adorable-slutty) usherette in a movie house. He gives up his family and his heart for her. Then it shifts into randy comedy as she has the scholar supporting her and a beau who suggests he's gay. Thine host is ready to believe anything. The scholarly Albinus is good-looking, Nabokov reports, though "his mild blue eyes bulged a little when he was thinking hard," and, since he has a slowish mind, this happens often. Before marriage he knew a few dreary women, including one who always talked about her past in great detail and concluded with "C'est la vie." The Cupid serving him, author stresses, had "a weak chin and no imagination." At the movies, which play a key role herein, he meets teenie Margot, who likes to gnaw on a dry roll after sex. She wants to get into movies and be a Dietrich-star like Dorianna Karenina. He finances a pic. In a devastating scene, at a preview, Margot sees how awful she is onscreen. Sobs, moans, hysterics. "I'm prepared to do anything to make my darling happy," he says. Enter Axel Rex, a virile scamp up to no good, Margot's exlover...they keep Albinus stuffed w sleeping pills. After a car accident, in which Albinus is blinded, literally, the dangerous games begin. The last pages, which surely inspired Muriel Spark, end with murder. In this case, a happy ending. It's a gem. In 60,000 words Nabokov reveals more about the world than other writers who reach 600,000 words. Critics find Albinus and Axel Rex two sides of Nabokov, who collides sexual pathology with self-knowledge -- or should I say self-illumination ?

  13. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    Laughter in the Dark is the story of a married man’s destructive obsession with an attractive young girl. Not a shocking thematic departure for Nabokov, but the novel nonetheless has its own unique character. In terms of its tone it is light and ironic, and in its treatment of its themes, uncomplicated. Nabokov suggests the tragic ending in the first paragraph, forgoing any dramatic tension, and allowing the reader to just sit back and enjoy the inevitable train wreck. This is a tragic comedy wi Laughter in the Dark is the story of a married man’s destructive obsession with an attractive young girl. Not a shocking thematic departure for Nabokov, but the novel nonetheless has its own unique character. In terms of its tone it is light and ironic, and in its treatment of its themes, uncomplicated. Nabokov suggests the tragic ending in the first paragraph, forgoing any dramatic tension, and allowing the reader to just sit back and enjoy the inevitable train wreck. This is a tragic comedy with the character of a moral parable. The lesson is: stick with your wife; and watch out for the pretty ones, they are especially insidious. I wonder to what extent Nabokov was working through his own issues with fidelity and temptation.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cody

    What goes around, comes around—right? Ostensibly a story about a man who forsakes his wife and child for a new model vixen (read: teenager), Laughter in the Dark sets a benchmark on how terrible human beings can be to one another and the very real cost that duplicity can exact on all involved. It had me wincing at points and I don’t wince. I’m incapable of wincing; winceless, wince-free; unwincable. Yet wince I did. Wince. The novel is excruciating in its escalations of suffering. In a whole mes What goes around, comes around—right? Ostensibly a story about a man who forsakes his wife and child for a new model vixen (read: teenager), Laughter in the Dark sets a benchmark on how terrible human beings can be to one another and the very real cost that duplicity can exact on all involved. It had me wincing at points and I don’t wince. I’m incapable of wincing; winceless, wince-free; unwincable. Yet wince I did. Wince. The novel is excruciating in its escalations of suffering. In a whole mess of betrayals, Nabokov almost seems to be trying to one-up himself on who can be awarded the blue ribbon for all-around shittiest human. There are a few runner-ups, terrible people all. For my reading habits, it is all very straightforward but nonetheless fantastic. Thus far it is my favorite of the Russian novels, though I’d gladly have it usurped (because that would mean an out-and-out masterpiece). Meh, this review sucks. Call me uninspired (I believe ‘working’ is the technical term). I s’pose there are all kinds of novels out there that deal with this sort of stuff, and I’m sure the depravities have escalated as the public’s bloodlust has proven unslakable. I don’t intend on finding out. My collection of Fabio-adorned romance thrillers is purely for my own aesthetic enjoyment alone, thank you very much. Back to the Nabo I go-go-go…

  15. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    The book gains momentum as you read; as you reach its end you do not want to put it down, not for a single second. It’s creepy. It’s suspenseful. It is not what I was expecting from a Nabokov novel. We have here a story about a middle-aged, wealthy, married and happy man. He is an art critic living in Berlin. It is between the wars. In a dark movie theater, he meets up with a seventeen-year-old. It is she who shows him to his seat. He is attracted to her. He becomes infatuated with her. She is b The book gains momentum as you read; as you reach its end you do not want to put it down, not for a single second. It’s creepy. It’s suspenseful. It is not what I was expecting from a Nabokov novel. We have here a story about a middle-aged, wealthy, married and happy man. He is an art critic living in Berlin. It is between the wars. In a dark movie theater, he meets up with a seventeen-year-old. It is she who shows him to his seat. He is attracted to her. He becomes infatuated with her. She is by no means guiltless. It turns out that it is she who is seducing him! Watch and see what happens. The quality of a book lies in the writing. This book deserves four stars due to its prose. It is the writing in this book that makes it exciting. Luke Daniels narrates the audiobook. It’s good, but nothing special. I had to listen very carefully to make sure I heard exactly who was doing what. The narration I have given three stars. Nabokov was picky about the translation of his books. This I appreciate. Not liking the book's first English translation by Winifred Roy (with the title Camera Obscura), he translated it again, this time himself. His translation was given the title Laughter in the Dark. I recommend this book to those looking for a short, exciting read. I haven’t told you a whole lot. You shouldn’ t be told a whole lot because this will wreck the suspense. *************** *Lolita 5 stars *Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle 5 stars *Speak, Memory 5 stars *Glory 4 stars *Mary 4 stars *Laughter in the Dark 4 stars *The Gift 3 stars *Pale Fire 2 stars *Pnin 1 star *Despair 1 star *Transparent Things TBR *King, Queen, Knave TBR *The Real Life of Sebastian Knight TBR

  16. 4 out of 5

    Smiley

    3.50 stars This is the 5th novel by Vladimir Nabokov I read: the other three being 'Collected Stories,' 'King, Queen, Knave,' 'Lolita,' and 'Pnin'. My list is few due to a long interval of reluctance due to my limited familiarity with his style, texts and English. However, I have since gained more confidence from my first encounter with his "Collected Stories" (Penguin, 2010) in which I could enjoy reading most of them. Interestingly, this novel written in Russian has been translated into English 3.50 stars This is the 5th novel by Vladimir Nabokov I read: the other three being 'Collected Stories,' 'King, Queen, Knave,' 'Lolita,' and 'Pnin'. My list is few due to a long interval of reluctance due to my limited familiarity with his style, texts and English. However, I have since gained more confidence from my first encounter with his "Collected Stories" (Penguin, 2010) in which I could enjoy reading most of them. Interestingly, this novel written in Russian has been translated into English by Mr Nabokov himself because he was displeased with the first English translation published by Jonathan Long in London in 1936 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laughte...). All in all, there are more or less three characteristics that essentially shape the three key characters' fate, each pertaining to wealthiness (Albert Albinus), greed (Margot Peters) and brazennes (Axel Rex). As soon as we keep these in mind while reading, Nabokov's plot and dialogs are simply amazing and gradually realize why conflicts just happen. If Albinus were not well to do, he would not exploit his wealth for anything Margot wants. If Margot were not greedy, she would not propose a divorce ultimatum from him. If Rex were not brazen, he would not mischievously linger on with Margot in a rented Chalet in Switzerland while Albinus could not see due to his accident. To continue ...

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    More reviews can be found on my book blog. --- This was written twenty-three years before Lolita and also deals with a relationship between an older man and a younger woman. These are the only two Nabokov novels I've read so far, so I'm hoping he does branch out a bit in his other novels, but this was still a much different story than what happened between Humbert Humbert and Dolores. Where Humbert is a calculated predator, Albert Albinus, this story's older man, is a fumbling and naive fool. H More reviews can be found on my book blog. --- This was written twenty-three years before Lolita and also deals with a relationship between an older man and a younger woman. These are the only two Nabokov novels I've read so far, so I'm hoping he does branch out a bit in his other novels, but this was still a much different story than what happened between Humbert Humbert and Dolores. Where Humbert is a calculated predator, Albert Albinus, this story's older man, is a fumbling and naive fool. He's a well-off art critic living in Berlin who meets Margot, a seventeen-year-old girl, and becomes obsessed with her. He meets with her on a few occasions and eventually - 'seduces' is not the right word here - convinces her to have an affair with him. She is in control from the very beginning, manipulating him every step of the way to get what she wants while slowly dismantling his life. We watch as this relationship progresses and becomes shockingly toxic. All of the characters are completely unlikable in this. Albinus is truly pathetic and Margot is just a vile human being from the very beginning of the story, to the point where it was difficult to imagine what Albinus saw in her, although she does get some sympathy being the target of a man too old for her. I don't need characters to be likable, but it's nice to know what others see in them. Yes, she's (too) young and beautiful, but even the most beautiful people will become unattractive to you over time if they're shallow and unbearable. It's really Nabokov's writing, though noticeably less polished than Lolita, that pulls you through the middle of this novel. Laughter in the Dark really shines in its last third, where it becomes delightfully demented. I was not expecting the story to go the way that it did, and it was a lot of fun. It almost felt like a pulpy movie, ending in an unrealistic situation that still managed to be horrific and entertaining to read. This was first translated to English in 1936, but Nabokov is said to have disliked that translation so much that he decided to translate it himself again two years later. I feel like we don't often get the chance to read a translation done by the original author, so it's a bit of a rare treat. It looks like the rest of his Russian novels were translated either by him or his son. 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. I'm looking forward to reading more of his novels and curious to see what other subjects he tackles in those stories.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Chaikin

    "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." Nabokov was known to call all fiction essentially fairy tales, but his takes it to the extreme with this playful opening paragraph. I was wondering how he could follow up on it, and I kept wondering for another 100 pages as creates a somewhat stereotypical 17-yr-old "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." Nabokov was known to call all fiction essentially fairy tales, but his takes it to the extreme with this playful opening paragraph. I was wondering how he could follow up on it, and I kept wondering for another 100 pages as creates a somewhat stereotypical 17-yr-old semi-prostitute and a somewhat stereotypical the middle-aged married clueless and generally harmless Albinus who falls in love with her. But then the book begins to hit its stride, and once it does, it begins to do a lot of different things, becoming a terrific read that I flew through. It's notably a visual book, with an art critic, cinematic ties, and constant descriptions of the atmosphere, light, and characters. And there is, in contrast, layered themes on blindness. First the blindness in the darkness in the cinema, then the blindness and selfishness of love, and then actual blindness. When a character loses their sight, the book for me took on a mythological feel - everything becomes simplified, surrounded by unknowns, because everything we "saw" is missing. If you're thinking of Plato's cave, you're on the right track. It was after I read this that I came across an article on the Tolstoy references. Albinus is a 1930 male counterpart to Anna Karenina, and the books visuals play off Tolstoy's, and its themes off Tolstoy's in playful ways. It is, in a sense, an ode to Tolstoy, a wonderful one. This becomes my favorite Nabokov. Recommended to anyone interested. ----------------------------------------------- 33. Laughter in the Dark by Vladimir Nabokov translation from Russian by Nabokov in 1965 -- English translation history: first translated as Camera Obscura by Winifred Roy in 1936, then as Laughter in the Dark by Nabokov in 1938. And then updated by Nabokov in 1965. published: serialized in Sovremennye zapiski in 1932, published as Kamera Obskura (Камера Обскура) in 1933 format: 286-page paperback acquired: February read: Jun 8-17 time reading: 5 hr 11 min, 1.2 min/page rating: 4 locations: Berlin, Germany, France and Switzerland about the author 1899 – 1977. Russia born, educated at Trinity College in Cambridge, 1922, lived in Berlin (1922-1937), Paris, the US (1941-1961) and Montreux, Switzerland (1961-1977)

  19. 4 out of 5

    Eric

    I periodically revisit a handful of authors (kundera, kafka, calvino, queneau, fleming etc.) - why? to reaffirm my faith in humanity, or in something you may call "human achievement?" "art??" (ugh). perhaps for the thrill of experiencing a unique pleasure in a certain kind of intellectual, or, better, cerebral stimulation that has no equal anywhere else in nature (or human construction!) what am I talking about?!?!? all of this is a way of saying that nabokov is one of that select few, perhaps t I periodically revisit a handful of authors (kundera, kafka, calvino, queneau, fleming etc.) - why? to reaffirm my faith in humanity, or in something you may call "human achievement?" "art??" (ugh). perhaps for the thrill of experiencing a unique pleasure in a certain kind of intellectual, or, better, cerebral stimulation that has no equal anywhere else in nature (or human construction!) what am I talking about?!?!? all of this is a way of saying that nabokov is one of that select few, perhaps the one that towers over them all. there is simply nothing like reading something he wrote. that said, I hesitate to call this "lesser nabokov," because all that means is that it is far better, more thrilling, more beautiful, more heartbreakingly tragic & hilarious - simultaneously! - than anything else you could ever read. laughter in the dark is from 1938; nabokov has clearly gone as far as he could with telling a straight story, and his ridiculously expanding talents soon pushed him into realms that (it could be said) made him more difficult to read & enjoy. his mastery here of pacing, of detail, and of the delicate balance between tragedy & comedy, pathos & cruelty, is pure perfection. some themes, situations and character studies here are revisited in the author's well-known masterpieces of the 1950s (pnin, lolita), but here they lack any of the occasionally puzzling gamesmanship or linguistic gymnastics of those jewels. this is just a fantastically entertaining read, and one that propels you along with ease and without any guilt at going so quickly. "lesser nabokov??" is there such a thing? I think not!!

  20. 5 out of 5

    Brent Legault

    The trick with Nabokov, with any novelist, is to sympathize not with the characters but with characters' creator. There is no one in this novel to get behind, not even the betrayed wife or her sick little girl. Because they are but props, silent-movie cliches. All three of the leads are detestable, each in their own way. And the plot is as outlandish and unlikely as the films Nabokov was having fun with. What makes the book worth reading is, as always, his style and his lovely, lyrical detail. B The trick with Nabokov, with any novelist, is to sympathize not with the characters but with characters' creator. There is no one in this novel to get behind, not even the betrayed wife or her sick little girl. Because they are but props, silent-movie cliches. All three of the leads are detestable, each in their own way. And the plot is as outlandish and unlikely as the films Nabokov was having fun with. What makes the book worth reading is, as always, his style and his lovely, lyrical detail. But it's also the knowledge that even though his creations are awful, Nabokov isn't. He just likes to give the damned their due.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Inderjit Sanghera

    Nabokov famously disowned “Laughter in the Dark” and one can see some of the reasons why-it lacks the vivacity and verve, the poetic cadence of Nabokov’s prose, however it contains most of the themes which dominate Nabokov’s works; the vicissitudes of reality, of cruelty, the burgeoning sexuality of adolescence, solipsism and unreliable narrators. Some of the descriptions can be cloyingly clichéd and it lacks perhaps the complexity of his great novels, however traces of his genius and lyricism a Nabokov famously disowned “Laughter in the Dark” and one can see some of the reasons why-it lacks the vivacity and verve, the poetic cadence of Nabokov’s prose, however it contains most of the themes which dominate Nabokov’s works; the vicissitudes of reality, of cruelty, the burgeoning sexuality of adolescence, solipsism and unreliable narrators. Some of the descriptions can be cloyingly clichéd and it lacks perhaps the complexity of his great novels, however traces of his genius and lyricism are dotted throughout the novel; “It really was blue; purple blue in the distance, peacock-blue coming nearer; diamond blue where the wave caught the light. The foam toppled over, ran, slowed down, then receded, leaving a smooth mirror on the wet sand, which the next wave flooded again.” The narrative follows Albinus, a rich, artistic but slightly ineffectual man who fulfils a long-standing fantasy by falling in love with the capricious, captivating yet hopelessly cruel Margot, who seeks to manipulate and upend Albinus with her lover, Axel Rex. There are echoes of other Nabokovian characters in the novel-Axel is a kind of fore-runner of Humbert and especially Quilty, Margot is a crueller and vainer version of Lolits and Albinus resembles Martin, the hero of ‘Glory’, but an older Martin inflated with smug self-satisfaction and lacking his moral refinement. It is by far the most film-like of Nabokov’s novels-indeed many of the passages, such as the mime performance given by Axel against the blind Albinus, would make for brilliant film scenes and although it lacks the prosaic brilliance of Nabokov’s latter novels, it forms an important bridge in Nabokov’s transition to an artistic genius which was to last until the publication of ‘Ada’.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    I'm sticking up for this book. A lot of the reviews I've read have panned it, but they shouldn't. It's a great book. The protagonist is a philandering middle-aged art critic named Albinus. He sets out to get a mistress--with disastrous results. The mistress he secures, Margot, is a vamp, a femme fatale, a pouting silver screen siren, a Louise Brooks look-alike who leads poor blundering Albinus around by his balls and his wallet. She demands they go on extravagant vacations. She throws temper tant I'm sticking up for this book. A lot of the reviews I've read have panned it, but they shouldn't. It's a great book. The protagonist is a philandering middle-aged art critic named Albinus. He sets out to get a mistress--with disastrous results. The mistress he secures, Margot, is a vamp, a femme fatale, a pouting silver screen siren, a Louise Brooks look-alike who leads poor blundering Albinus around by his balls and his wallet. She demands they go on extravagant vacations. She throws temper tantrums when she doesn't get her way. She fucks other men behind his back while draining his bank accounts. So, whom do you feel sorry for? Who's the sympathetic character? The adulterous and naive Albinus? The narcissistic hedonist Margot? The backstabbing interloper Rex? Albinus' self-righteous but impotent brother-in-law Paul? There is no one to empathize with in this book. You can only look on helplessly as the characters destroy one another and themselves against the backdrop of an elegant pre-War Berlin. But it's a pleasure to watch. Nabokov's language, as always, sings. And, bonus for me, it has a good plot. I like plots. Sue me. I've suffered through a lot of plot-less books this year and it feels goddamned great to read a book where people cry and deceive one another and try to hail a taxi in the rain. The ending of the book is really good, too. Some thoughts: 1) If you get what you secretly want, you'll eventually be disappointed with that, too. 2) You can be an erudite intellectual and still be a damned fool. "Smart fools" (sounds like an oxymoron) are capable of all sorts of cruelty. 3) Nabokov is a master of language.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Brutally well-written. Haunting and disturbing. Nabokov's bitter farewell to his uncomfortable decade-plus in Berlin and with a few subtle hints of the madness and decadence to come after he managed to escape with his family to the States. Disturbing, which is a word that I don't use very often and am consistently annoyed with the causal employment of, but in this case, yeah. Made my flesh creep even as I couldn't tear my eyes away from it. Brutally well-written. Haunting and disturbing. Nabokov's bitter farewell to his uncomfortable decade-plus in Berlin and with a few subtle hints of the madness and decadence to come after he managed to escape with his family to the States. Disturbing, which is a word that I don't use very often and am consistently annoyed with the causal employment of, but in this case, yeah. Made my flesh creep even as I couldn't tear my eyes away from it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Vladimir Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark is a savage tale of cuckoldry at its worst. Albert Albinus, a wealthy middle-aged man, is drawn to a young theater usher named Margot Peters. When his wife Elizabeth finds out (largely as a result of a note written by Margot), the marriage falls apart. Albinus and Margot meet up with the former's acquaintance, Axel Rex, and the result is a menage a trois about which Albinus is innocent. When he discovers the tricks being played upon him, he gets in an autom Vladimir Nabokov's Laughter in the Dark is a savage tale of cuckoldry at its worst. Albert Albinus, a wealthy middle-aged man, is drawn to a young theater usher named Margot Peters. When his wife Elizabeth finds out (largely as a result of a note written by Margot), the marriage falls apart. Albinus and Margot meet up with the former's acquaintance, Axel Rex, and the result is a menage a trois about which Albinus is innocent. When he discovers the tricks being played upon him, he gets in an automobile accident and is blinded. At this point, Nabokov becomes even more savage: Albinus, Rex, and Margot live together in a Swiss cottage, but Albinus does not know that Rex is present -- until the inevitable happens. Although the book is superbly crafted, it is difficult for the reader to have any feeling for the characters.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Liina Bachmann

    I don't know any other writer who could ridicule his (especially) male character the way Nabokov does it. Albinus is no exception. Lured by desire he is as blind as Swann was, humiliating himself for Odette. What else to except? Literary humour, a good laugh at Dostoyevsky and a seriously sickening plot twist which made me really ponder about the musty depths of human nature and ask myself "where is the limit?". I don't know any other writer who could ridicule his (especially) male character the way Nabokov does it. Albinus is no exception. Lured by desire he is as blind as Swann was, humiliating himself for Odette. What else to except? Literary humour, a good laugh at Dostoyevsky and a seriously sickening plot twist which made me really ponder about the musty depths of human nature and ask myself "where is the limit?".

  26. 4 out of 5

    Darryl Suite

    Yas. This is my third Nabokov after Lolita and Pnin. I get the impression that Nabokov had lots of fun making these characters as contemptible as possible. The prose shows such disdain for these people. We do get little snippets of why these characters behave in the manner that they do, but you're not going to go around feeling too sorry for any of them. They're all so despicable, selfish, and morally corrupt. And you know what? I was here for it. Absolutely twisted and wild story.  Yas. This is my third Nabokov after Lolita and Pnin. I get the impression that Nabokov had lots of fun making these characters as contemptible as possible. The prose shows such disdain for these people. We do get little snippets of why these characters behave in the manner that they do, but you're not going to go around feeling too sorry for any of them. They're all so despicable, selfish, and morally corrupt. And you know what? I was here for it. Absolutely twisted and wild story. 

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cátia Vieira

    Why should you read this book? This book is called Laughter in the Dark but when I finished it, I just wanted to cry in the dark. I rarely feel this way about the books I read. I only feel like this when I loved them, when they mean the world to me. Nabokov has this transcendental and eternal effect on me. First, I close the book; then, I feel like I am going to scream because I am feeling too many things at the same time. It’s a revolution inside me. And, after that, I feel sad. His writing move Why should you read this book? This book is called Laughter in the Dark but when I finished it, I just wanted to cry in the dark. I rarely feel this way about the books I read. I only feel like this when I loved them, when they mean the world to me. Nabokov has this transcendental and eternal effect on me. First, I close the book; then, I feel like I am going to scream because I am feeling too many things at the same time. It’s a revolution inside me. And, after that, I feel sad. His writing moves me, his writing and his work become a part of me. And, lastly, I feel this urge to cry for the story, for the characters and because it’s all over. This paragraph should be enough to make you run to the nearest bookstore and look for a copy, but if it isn’t, keep reading. “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”. What a perfect way to start a novel, right? I connected right away with this book. Not that I have left a family for a mistress; but we all loved and were not loved; we were all hurt and momentarily destroyed by love. Sometimes, readers say that they don’t really appreciate Nabokov’s work because the characters aren’t likeable. I think those people are missing the point. They might not be likeable but they are universal. It’s not about their personality but about their feelings. Albinus is a very cult man; however he is not emotionally intelligent. He is blind and vain. Therefore, he suffer great losses (which I will not unveil to avoid spoilers). This book is about suffering, destruction, solitude, evil and betrayal. And, although he loves, this book is never about love. Nabokov’s writing is unique. He mocks us and he despises. The irony and sarcasm dominate his works. And, you can actually feel contempt in his writing. Nabokov didn’t write to teach or preach. He wrote to remind us that we know nothing, that we are flawed and insignificant. That’s why I find this title sublime: Laughter in the Dark. Laughing in the dark is sinister and daunting, but, perhaps, also liberating. Above all, it reminds me of an ending, of a final scene, where we might be winners or losers. It doesn’t really matter, does it…? That’s what he’s trying to explain. At least, the way I see it. Vladimir Nabokov is definitely one of the greatest writers. After reading Despair, Lolita and Laughter in the Dark, I can assure you: the latter was the best, the most sublime, undoubtedly. For more reviews, follow me on Instagram: @booksturnyouon

  28. 5 out of 5

    Steven

    A cautionary, satirical tale of lust and obsession, betrayal and inevitable doom. It's enough to put one off younger women for life... A cautionary, satirical tale of lust and obsession, betrayal and inevitable doom. It's enough to put one off younger women for life...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Victor Sonkin

    I didn't remember the plot almost completely, apart from a few sparkling details here and there, so it was close to rereading in a sense. The ending is just a tiny bit less satisfactory than the rest, but on the whole, this is Nabokov at his best. His lab precision when he works with German characters is also kind of interesting. I assume his ignorance of German could not have been as complete as he loved to pretend. I didn't remember the plot almost completely, apart from a few sparkling details here and there, so it was close to rereading in a sense. The ending is just a tiny bit less satisfactory than the rest, but on the whole, this is Nabokov at his best. His lab precision when he works with German characters is also kind of interesting. I assume his ignorance of German could not have been as complete as he loved to pretend.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Oni

    While trying to write some thoughts on Laughter in the Dark, I remembered a Pitchfork review of Mule Variations describing how for reaching the levels of one of Tom Waits' songs, one would have to spend the next twenty years training in a monastery, then have magic rites performed over one's writing hand, then sell one's soul to Satan for good measure. I believe this applies to Nabokov's work equally well. So, even if I were to say that Laughter in the Dark is perhaps less subtle than his other While trying to write some thoughts on Laughter in the Dark, I remembered a Pitchfork review of Mule Variations describing how for reaching the levels of one of Tom Waits' songs, one would have to spend the next twenty years training in a monastery, then have magic rites performed over one's writing hand, then sell one's soul to Satan for good measure. I believe this applies to Nabokov's work equally well. So, even if I were to say that Laughter in the Dark is perhaps less subtle than his other work, it still means that one would have to train in high mountain monasteries for years in order to write something equally good. Nabokov was simply incapable of mediocre work. Laughter in the Dark is often described as a precursor to, a foreshadowing of Lolita. That such an accomplishment - an important novel in itself - can be considered an exercise for something else is in my eyes yet another proof of Nabokov's brilliance. The plot is rich, cinematographic. Nabokov aptly distills it in the opening paragraph and hints that beyond the narrative suspense, beyond the story of love, of obsession, of betrayal and regret, of ruin, there's much, much more. And as a reader, one longs to discover the full-length story, to enjoy its twists, suffer its cruelties, absorb the abundance of literary, cinematographic, theatre & art allusions. To experience once more that unrivaled sense of pace, of form, that versatility in playing with different types of brushes and textures for character portrayal. There's a classic anti-hero, triggering both contempt and empathy. There's a shallow, cruel, child-femme fatale, whose portrayal has a cinematographic quality, of a vamp from a black-and-white silent movie. There's a psychopath artist, sketched like a character in a satirical, dark comic. And finally, there's a gentle wife, ethereal and floating, like the subject of an impressionist painting. Through each of them Nabokov shows - once more - how words can act. As gloriously extreme as opera, as tragic as a classic play, as vivid as film, as subtle as a painting.

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