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Summary

In a Berlin rooming house filled with an assortment of serio-comic Russian émigrés, Lev Ganin, a vigorous young officer poised between his past and his future, relives his first love affair. His memories of Mary are suffused with the freshness of youth and the idyllic ambience of pre-revolutionary Russia.

In stark contrast is the decidedly unappealing boarder living in the room next to Ganin’s, who, he discovers, is Mary’s husband, temporarily separated from her by the Revolution but expecting her imminent arrival from Russia.

Public Domain

Critic reviews

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

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  • Darwin8u
  • 22-12-13

There IS something about Mary!

No. I did like this. Really.

Amazing to think Nabokov was starting his journey here. While Nabokov's first novel purports to be about Mary, it is really about memory, nostalgia, that yearning for the past. It is also about anticipation: the exile's return, the lover's arrival, all the emotions of expectancy. 'Mary' centers on émigré Lev Glebovich Ganin. He is trying to separate himself from Lyudmila (a woman he no longer loves or even likes), while waiting for fellow pension dweller, Alfyorov's wife (an early love?) to appear. Yes, Mary is much anticipated. All the while, Ganin basically ignores Klara, the eponymous 'girl next door', who adores him.

This tangle of relationships all takes place in a small setting -- a Berlin pension filled with Russian expats. The setting (almost a closed circle mystery sans mystery) reminded me a bit of Eric Ambler's 'Epitaph for a Spy' in that it all takes place largely among a hotel/pension with various characters interacting.

Anyway, it was good Nabokov ... just not great.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful

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  • The Flash Fiction Ponder
  • 30-01-18

Genius can be Developed

I started off with Lolita, and based on that brilliantly written book I decided I wanted to read all of Nabokov's books, so here I am with his first. A pretty good story about nostalgia, but 29 years between the two definitely shows the fact that genius does not always come from some great predetermined power. That it indeed can be developed.

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  • utente verificato
  • 23-11-11

Nabokov, you know?

One of the top world' writer at his best even in this less known sad, emigree, so Russian tale.
Nabokov paint an indoor scene as no one.