The Gift is the last novel Nabokov wrote in his native Russian. It is also his ode to Russian literature, evoking the works of Pushkin, Gogol and others in the course of its narrative: the story of Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev, an impoverished émigré poet living in Berlin, who dreams of the book he will someday write – a book very much like The Gift itself.
Reviewed by Adam Foulds in Slightly Foxed Issue 62.
In Nabokov’s novel The Gift (1938) the young poet Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev is solitary and gifted. A virtuoso of perception, he sees around him many small, delightful details – a shopkeeper’s pumpkincoloured bald spot; an iridescent oil slick on a road with a plume-like twist, asphalt’s parakeet – that others around him miss. This capacity makes him one of nature’s aristocrats, as Clarence Brown once wrote of the poet Mandelstam, refined, elegant and immeasurably, immaterially rich. He also happens to be a literal aristocrat, a Russian count dispossessed of his estates by the Revolution and living in apparently permanent exile in Berlin in the mid-1930s. He lodges in furnished rooms and scratches a living as a private tutor while his first collection of poems sells a few copies to fellow émigrés . . .
Extract from Slightly Foxed Issue 62, Summer 2019
In Nabokov’s novel The Gift (1938) the young poet Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev is solitary and gifted. A virtuoso of perception, he sees around him many small, delightful details – a shopkeeper’s...Read more