“Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster. This is the whole of the story and we might have left it at that had there not been profit and pleasure in the telling; and although there is plenty of space on a gravestone to contain, bound in moss, the abridged version of a man’s life, detail is always welcome.”
So begins Laughter in the Dark, Vladimir Nabokov’s sixth novel published in Berlin in 1933. The brilliance of it is that Nabokov tells you what is going to happen in such a way that he still makes you want to read about it. The only other person who carried off the same trick with similar panache is Gabriel Garcia Marquez in his Chronicle of a History Foretold.
Laughter in the Dark is a brilliantly wicked piece set in the movie world of Berlin during the early 1930s. I won’t reveal the plot, but suffice it to say that if you’ve enjoyed Lolita, you should enjoy this novel, which has some interesting parallels. Five stars.