Review: Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov

Sunday, August 26, 2012
Genre: classic, general fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 223 (paperback edition)
Published: 1936
Source: bought
Rating: 3/5

Like Kafka's The Castle, Invitation to a Beheading embodies a vision of a bizarre and irrational world. In an unnamed dream country, the young man Cincinnatus C. is condemned to death by beheading for "gnostical turpitude" an imaginary crime that defies definition. Cincinnatus spends his last days in an absurd jail, where he is visited by chimerical jailers. an executioner who masquerades as a fellow prisoner, and by his in-laws. who lug their furniture with them into his cell. 

When Cincinnatus is led out to be executed. he simply wills his executioners out of existence: they disappear, along with the whole world they inhabit.

Warning: This is a rare “classic” read. I am very hard on the classics, since I find them just as enlightening as other genres but far less entertaining. Read this review with a grain of salt.

Invitation to a Beheading is classic existentialist literature. The main character, Cincinnatus C., is accused of some crime for which no one really has a definition. As you read, you come to realize that crime is being somehow more substantial than everyone else; Cincinnatus refers to it a few times as being “opaque.” The story is about his bizarre stay in jail while awaiting execution, and includes getting to know his executioner and dealing with his in-laws “moving in” for a short period of time… among other things.

I found it rather funny that in the introduction, Nabokov states that it’s strange that he’s compared so often to Kafka, when he had never read any German literature. But literally within the first two pages I thought, “This guy is Kafka v.2.0.” Nabokov defines the term Kafkaesque better than anyone I’ve read. His prose has that intangible, dreamlike quality while his main character is over-intense and paranoid. The similarities are eerie.

In high school, I couldn’t push through either Kafka or Conrad. I’m not going to say I enjoyed this story, and because I’ve maybe matured (hey, I said maybe, assholes!) but this was an easier read once the ball was rolling. Nabokov portrays a world not chaotic but translucent, a world with rules but rules that make no sense. Within Cincinnatus, we see reflected the concept of the individual as a pillar of perspective; what the world sees in us is not who we truly are. The society of Cincinnatus is neither with him nor against him, they are simply separate in a visceral fashion.

Recommended for anyone with a craving for some down and dirty existentialist nonsense silliness fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Copyright © 2015 Ageless Pages Reviews. All Rights Reserved.

Amelia Theme by The Lovely Design CO and These Paper Hearts.