The Tragedy of Mister Morn

Knopf. 2013. 192p. tr. from Russian by Thomas Karshan. ISBN 9780307960818. $26. THEATER
The publication of this title is sure to make the hearts of Nabokov enthusiasts beat a little faster. Written between 1923 and 1924 when he was 24, this play was never performed or published during the author's lifetime (1899–1977). It first saw the light of day in a Russian edition published in 1997; this translation is its first appearance in English. Karshan's introduction assures readers that they may see, in the play, the literary beginnings of the novelist-to-be. This five-act piece addresses, in a fantastical way, the nihilism of the Russian Revolution. Its characters speak in iambic pentameter, with enough pauses (indicated by ellipses) to populate a new Harold Pinter play. The text lies rather flatly on the page and does not eagerly engage the reader. On the stage, though, with all the tricks available to an ambitious director, crew, and cast, it has a chance at being charming and accessible.
VERDICT Necessary in order to complete the Nabokov collection but of secondary importance otherwise. Those seeking new monologs for auditions or competitions will find it useful.
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