The New Yorker: Fiction

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A monthly reading and conversation with the New Yorker fiction editor Deborah Treisman.


Aleksandar Hemon reads “Pnin” by Vladimir Nabokov

December 1st, 2014

Episode 191 of 226 episodes

On this month’s fiction podcast, Aleksandar Hemon reads and discusses Vladimir Nabokov’s short story “Pnin,” which was published in The New Yorker, in 1953, and became the opening chapter of his 1957 novel of the same name, about the Russian-émigré professor Timofey Pnin. Hemon, who relocated to the United States from the former Yugoslavia at the outset of the Bosnian war, and learned English by reading “Pnin” and other books by Nabokov, says that the author “is lauded for his language in English and Russian . . . but what is often misperceived is the actual care and insight he might have into his characters, particularly if they are displaced Russians.” In his conversation with the magazine’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, Hemon also discusses Pnin’s “complicated innocence” toward America, the authorial presence of Nabokov in the story, and whether the novel really was, as Nabokov claimed, a “brief, sunny escape” from “Lolita” ’s “intolerable spell.”