In a nameless East European nation, Krug, a philosophy professor in his 40s, has lost his wife in surgery just as a revolution has brought a repressive dictatorship to power. The revolutionary tyrant, Paduk, a childhood schoolmate of Krug's, needs the academic star's blessing to help legitimize his power grab, and starts having his men arrest and eliminate the people around the professor, up to and including Krug's 8-year-old son David, in order to force it. Published in 1947, this was the first novel Nabokov wrote in America after his escape from Europe, and the pidgin German and Russian words sprinkled throughout it support his indictment of those recent (and all) totalitarian regimes. But it also has plenty of his familiar narrative self-consciousness and word games; for example, Nabokov inserts several mock analyses of "Hamlet" into the story.
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The review of this Book prepared by David Loftus