Pnin and Vladimir Vladimirovich

While reading Pnin, I think it’s easy to forget that the narrator of the novel is not Pnin but Vladimir Vladimirovich. In this sense, Vladimirovich writes about Pnin’s life as though he were always present and even inside Pnin’s own head. I tried to find all instances of Pnin and Vladimirovich actually being in contact directly or indirectly:

Vladimirovich first meets Pnin after visiting Pnin’s ophthalmologist father, Dr. Pavel Pnin, since a piece of dust had become lodged into his eye. Dr. Pnin brought Pnin into his office and congratulates him for getting an A in algebra.

Five years later, Vladimirovich meets Pnin again at his play.

Vladimirovich and Pnin meet again in Paris where Pnin is an “erudite young author of several admirable papers on Russian culture.”

Vladimirovich and Pnin meet several more times, but Pnin denies it. In fact, Vladimirovich says that “[Pnin] said he vaguely recalled my grandaunt but had never met me. He said that his marks in algebra had always been poor and that, anyway, his father never displayed him to patients; he said that in Zabava (Liebelei) he had only acted the part of Christine’s father.” Vladimirovich writes this off as “nothing more than good-natured banter, and everybody laughed; and noticing how reluctant he was to recognize his own past, I switched to another, less personal, topic” (180).

Vladimirovich also had an affair with Liza, Pnin’s ex-wife. Also, in Chapter 6 Vladimirovich wants to buy the house that Pnin is renting. And Vladimirovich takes his job at the college.

It’s clear after reviewing their actual encounters that Vladimirovich is literally rewriting and supplanting Pnin’s life.

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