Invitation to a Beheading

Invitation to a Beheading

Infobox Book
name = Invitation to a Beheading
title_orig = Приглашение на казнь
translator = Dmitri Nabokov in collaboration with the author

image_caption = 2001 Penguin Modern Classics edition
author = Vladimir Nabokov
cover_artist =
country = Russia
language = Russian
genre = Novel
publisher =
release_date = 1935-1936
media_type = Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
pages =
isbn = NA & reissue ISBN 0-679-72531-8 (Vintage, September 19, 1989)
preceded_by =

"Invitation to a Beheading" (Russian: Приглашение на казнь, "Priglasheniye na kazn"') is a novel by Russian American author Vladimir Nabokov. It was originally published in Russian in 1935-1936 as a serial in "Contemporary Notes" ("Sovremennye zapiski"), a highly respected Russian émigré magazine. In 1938 the work was published in Paris, with an English translation following in 1959. The English version was translated by Nabokov's son, Dmitri Nabokov, under the author's supervision.

The novel is often described as "Kafkaesque," however Nabokov claimed that at the time he wrote the book, he was unfamiliar with German and "completely ignorant" of Kafka's work. [cite book | last = Nabokov | first = Vladimir | title = Invitation to a Beheading | year = 1959 | publisher = G.P. Putnam's Sons | pages = 6 | chapter = Foreword ] Nabokov interrupted his work on "The Gift" in order to write "Invitation", describing the creation of the first draft as "one fortnight of wonderful excitement and sustained inspiration." [cite book | last = Nabokov | first = Vladimir | title = Strong Opinions | year = 1974 | publisher = Weidenfeld and Nicolson | pages = 92 ] Some scholars have argued that the central plot of "Invitation" has its roots in Chernyshevski, a character from "The Gift". [Citation | last = Dragunoiu | first = Dana | year = 2000 | pages = 53]

While Nabokov stated in an interview that of all his novels he held the greatest affection for "Lolita", it was for "Invitation to a Beheading" that he held in the greatest esteem. [cite web |url=|title= Nabokov's interview. (06) Wisconsin Studies 1967 |accessdate=2007-12-21 |publisher= |work= Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature]

Plot introduction

The novel takes place in a prison and relates the final twenty days of Cincinnatus C., a citizen of a fictitious country, who is imprisoned and sentenced to death for "gnostical turpitude." Unable to blend in and become part of the world around him, Cincinnatus is described as having a "certain peculiarity" that makes him "impervious to the rays of others, and therefore produced when off his guard a bizarre impression, as of a lone dark obstacle in this world of souls transparent to one another." [cite book | last = Nabokov | first = Vladimir | title = Invitation to a Beheading | year = 1959 | publisher = G.P. Putnam's Sons | pages = 24] Although he tries to hide his condition and "feign translucence," people are uncomfortable with his existence, and feel there is something wrong with him. In this way, Cincinnatus fails to become part of his society.

While confined, Cincinnatus is not told when his execution will occur. This troubles him, as he wants to express himself through writing "in defiance of all the world's muteness," but feels unable to do so without knowledge of how long he has to complete this task. [cite book | last = Nabokov | first = Vladimir | title = Invitation to a Beheading | year = 1959 | publisher = G.P. Putnam's Sons | pages = 91] Indifferent to the absurdity and vulgarity around him, Cincinnatus strives to find his true self in his writing, where he creates an ideal world. Taken to be executed, he refuses to believe in either death or his executioners, and as the ax falls the false existence dissolves around him as he joins the spirits of his fellow visionaries in "reality."

Other characters include Rodion the jailer, the director of the jail Rodrig, and Cincinnatus' lawyer Roman. Some suggest that these names are meant to mimic that of the protagonist of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment", Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov. Cincinnatus' wife Marthe, a child named Emmie, and fellow prisoner "M'sieur Pierre" are also secondary characters.



last = Dragunoiu
first = Dana
year = 2001
title = Vladimir Nabokov's 'Invitation to a Beheading' and the Russian Radical Tradition
periodical = Journal of Modern Literature
volume = 25
issue = 1
pages = 53-69

last = Peterson
first = Dale
year = 1981
title = Nabokov's Invitation: Literature as Execution
periodical = PMLA
volume = 96
issue = 5
pages = 824-836

last = Schumacher
first = Meinolf
year = 2002
title = 'waz wirret daz?' Ein Theodizee-Argument des 'Welschen Gastes' im Horizont europäischer Gefängnis-Literatur von Boethius bis Vladimir Nabokov
periodical = Beweg­lichkeit der Bilder. Text und Imagination in den illustrierten Handschriften des 'Welschen Gastes' von Thomasin von Zerclaere
pages = 238-255

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