in you I see an equal
you have been hurt as I have
you have experienced a deep love, I imagine,
and lost it
you know what it is like
to die
the confusion
the what now? what now? why?
I know a girl, ten years old, in Princeton,
who was flying in a single engine airplane
with just her father and mother,
a few months ago. the plane crashed.
her parents died instantly.
she didn't break a single bone.
what now? what next?

Despair, a novel by Vladimir Nabokov.

The original Russian text for Despair was written in 1932 in Berlin and published in 1936. Its title was Otchayanie, "a far more sonorous howl," writes Nabokov. It was translated to English in 1937, but was not well received. A few years later, the whole stock, save the copy owned by Nabokov and perhaps two or three others, was destroyed by a German bomb.

It wasn't until 1965 that Nabokov dusted off his manuscript and re-translated Otchayanie to Despair. In fact, he did more than translate; he revamped and added to it.

The foreword itself shows Nabokov at his cajoling, humorous best. He says what he needs to say, while at the same time entertaining the reader, and poking fun at everyone, including himself and other authors.

The story itself centers around Hermann, a deliciously fallible man who undertakes a rather delicate project. But I won't be the one to spoil it for you.

I will say this, however: near the beginning of the book, Hermann sees someone, and this one place is where Nabakov's brilliance shines through. Hermann sees someone, and it becomes an event within an event. Nabokov plays with the reader, teasing you and leading you on. He leads you on in such a way that you roll your eyes and groan and think of your Uncle Soandso who always does this same sort of thing, but all the while you are laughing at yourself. He creates suspense out of the ordinary.

On top of that, Nabokov goes off on many tangents, taking you with him. He talks to the reader, insults us, and winds us around his little finger, as we have no choice but to keep reading. Despair, despite it's rather dreary title, is made delightful by Nabakov's narrative style.

A short order cook, 2 AM. His hair in a ponytail, his ponytail in a hairnet. Singing Pink Floyd and wondering how the fuck he ended up making burgers at two in the morning with a 31 on the ACT.

De*spair" (?), v. i. [imp. & p. p. Despaired (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Despairing.] [OE. despeiren, dispeiren, OF. desperer, fr. L. desperare; de- + sperare to hope; akin to spes hope, and perh. to spatium space, E. space, speed; cf. OF. espeir hope, F. espoir. Cf. Prosper, Desperate.]

To be hopeless; to have no hope; to give up all hope or expectation; -- often with of.

We despaired even of life. 2 Cor. i. 8.

Never despair of God's blessings here. Wake.

Syn. -- See Despond.


© Webster 1913.

De*spair", v. t.


To give up as beyond hope or expectation; to despair of.


I would not despair the greatest design that could be attempted. Milton.


To cause to despair.


Sir W. Williams.


© Webster 1913.

De*spair", n. [Cf. OF. despoir, fr. desperer.]


Loss of hope; utter hopelessness; complete despondency.

We in dark dreams are tossing to and fro, Pine with regret, or sicken with despair. Keble.

Before he [Bunyan] was ten, his sports were interrupted by fits of remorse and despair. Macaulay.


That which is despaired of.

"The mere despair of surgery he cures."


Syn. -- Desperation; despondency; hopelessness.


© Webster 1913.

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