I tried to watch this adaptation starring John Turturro. I really did. It was just bad. Really bad. I wonder what Nabokov would have thought of it. I really would have liked to see a way more abstract movie that involved trippy portrayals of Luzhin’s mind, but this just felt like a period drama romance that made all the wrong moves.
From Chapter 1, page 17
“No I’d better tell him myself,” replied Luzhin senior uncertainly to her suggestion. “I’ll tell him later, let him write his dictations in peace. ‘Being born in this world is hardly to be borne,'” Luzhin senior dictated steadily, strolling back and forth about the schoolroom. “Being born in this world is hardly to be borne.” And his son wrote, practically lying on the table and baring his teeth in their metallic scaffolding, and simply left blanks for the words “born” and “borne.”
This weekend I was binge watching a TV show called Inside No. 9 (great show I highly recommend checking it out, particularly the episode A Quiet Night In). Anyways, one of the episodes was called “La Couchette” which was set on a sleeper train in France. The characters sleep in beds on top of another in one of the carriages and someone is murdered. This got me thinking about stories like Murder on the Orient Express and Strangers on a Train and subsequently The Passenger which we read. The Passenger was written by Nabokov years before these other stories, and had a lot of prescient statements about them including the overused method of trying to “produce an impression of inexpectancy by means of the most natural denouement” when speaking of a good twist. I haven’t really looked much further into the origins of these train tropes, but again it seems really interesting to me that he wrote the story towards the beginning of his career and before a lot of the more famous stories of the like were published.