Thoughts on “Pnin”

“Pnin is a professor of Russian at an American college who takes the wrong train to deliver a lecture in a language he cannot master. Pnin is a tireless lover who writes to his treacherous Liza: ‘A genius needs to keep so much in store, and thus cannot offer you the whole of himself as I do.’ Pnin is the focal point of subtle academic conspiracies he cannot begin to comprehend, yet he stages a factually party to end all faculty parties forever.”

Well, the author of this blog is no better. She is an engineering major with high enough grades, but no practical knowledge of her field. She is an unlucky romantic who is forever falling in love with people beyond her reach. She is the epitome of forgetfulness, constantly losing her possessions and finding them again in the unlikeliest places.

Honestly though, the author of this blog doesn’t feel too bad about seeing herself in Pnin. Sure, he’s awkward and clumsy, but so good-natured about it that he’s charming. The author of this blog wonders if the people around her find her charming as well.

Not everyone likes Pnin. Not everybody could. Some of his collegues think he is nothing more than a fool, he’s an object of mockery to many of his students, his ex-wife Liza can’t stand him. And yet, the author of this blog feels that all the people who matter, the ones who are kind and creative and intelligent, adore Pnin, simply for being Pnin.

There is also the difficulty of being Pnin. The thought of taking the wrong lecture to a conference and boarding the wrong train makes the author of this blog cringe. By nature, he is not only a clumsy driver but also a clumsy walker. And events of the far past still hurt him deeply. Pnin’s frustration and tears are very real.

Fortunately, there is an invisible force, protecting Pnin from the world. His kindness attracts people who want to help him and keep him happy. And though things do get hectic because of his messy blunders, they turn out okay in the end. The lecture is saved. The glass bowl is intact.

The author of this blog is a reader of the casual variety and feels like she misses some, if not many, of the pieces of art that are scattered within the pages of “Pnin”, or any other Nabokov novel for that matter. She does feel drawn to Pnin though. There is something very lovely about his story that catches the heart of the reader and does not let go.


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