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Mary, Nabokov’s introduction

October 16, 2009

Mary (Mashen’ka), Nabokov’s first novel, published in 1926.  It’s interesting that in this apprentice fiction Nabokov is already deeply invested in themes he would pursue throughout his long writing career: lost love, an attempt to re-create the past, the effects of the passage of time, the artifice of the imagination.  I’m using the 1970 McGraw-Hill paperback, translated from the Russian by Michael Glenny “in collaboration with the author.”  Nabokov’s introduction to the English translation is typically Houdini-like:  “The beginner’s well-known propensity for obtruding upon his own privacy, by introducing himself, as vicar, into his first novel, owes less to the attraction of a ready made theme than to the relief of getting rid of oneself, before going on to better things.”  As I discuss the novel in detail, I’ll be referring to page numbers in this edition.

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