Invitation to a Beheading

Vladimir Nabokov said “Invitation to a Beheading” was his best work; he evidently wrote it in the period of two weeks. Nabokov was of course a Russian writer and intellectual who was exiled by the Bolsheviks to Germany and who then went to the United States. He is most famous for having written Lolita, which I haven’t read, but maybe I should try.

I did not like “Invitation to a Beheading”. So let me give you my reasons why. We who write, write not because we think we have something to say, although there is that; we write for other people. But we also write to lift up and to entertain and to challenge and, mostly (in my opinion) to inspire. Empathy, kindness, curiosity, wonder. That’s the whole point of fiction. Unlike religious writing or that which goes into a history book or a science book, which are meant to instruct, fiction reaches out to a different part of our being. This is why I dislike ‘stream of consciousness’ absurdum. I should have figured when I read the reviews and the novel was described as “Kafka-esque”, that I should look elsewhere. But I love Russian writers, so I tried “Beheading”. My recommendation, don’t bother reading it. He wrote this book for himself, not for us. He can keep it.

Read Lermontov instead! Or Mandelstam; or Grossman; or Pasternak.

About Joel D. Hirst

Joel D. Hirst is a novelist and a playwright. His most recently released work is "Dreams of the Defeated: A Play in Two Acts" about a political prisoner in a dystopian regime. His novels include "I, Charles, From the Camps" about the life of a young man in the African camps and "Lords of Misrule" about the making and unmaking of a jihadist in the Sahara. "The Lieutenant of San Porfirio" and its sequel "The Burning of San Porfirio" are about the rise and fall of socialist Venezuela (with magic).
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1 Response to Invitation to a Beheading

  1. Pingback: On “Gulag Archipelago” | Joel D. Hirst's Blog

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