Penn State

Brian A. Curran - Associate Professor of Art History, Penn State University Park

Book Title: Pnin

Author: Vladimir Nabokov

Book Description:

Valdimir Nabokov's shattering novel, "Pnin," explores the contradictions between public impression and private experience. It is the story of Timofey Pnin, a Russian exile who teaches at an American college and can never quite master the language, the culture, or the train schedule. To his American colleagues and friends, Pnin appears to be a comical and hapless individual; an endearing and well-intentioned loser. But the revelation of his earlier life in a single devastating flashback provides a manifest lesson to all teachers and students of history: that things (and people) may not always be as they seem on the surface. Like all of Nabokov's work, "Pnin" walks a thin line between the comic and the tragic. I know no other work of fiction or history that captures the fundamental human truth behind the maxim that "you can't judge a book by its cover" with such conviction and power.


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