Last week I read Laughter in the Dark, written in 1932 and translated into English by the author in 1938. Compared to some of Nabokov’s work, Laughter in the Dark is a very straightforward and easy read, a tragic novel with a clear plot and easily understandable characters. I quite enjoyed it.
Laughter in the Dark is remarkable in that it depicts the
triumph of evil over good. Not only does
the main character, Albert, by the folly of cheating on his wife, lose his
happy family life and then everything else. Not only do the selfish and greedy
Margot and the sadistic and malicious Axel succeed in their cruel aims at the
expense of everybody else. Not only do
totally innocent characters like Elisabeth and Irma suffer terribly due to the
folly and evil of others. Perhaps worst
of all, under pressure from the horrible circumstances they find themselves in,
most of the characters become progressively more evil over the course of the book, moving further from innocence and decency and coming closer to embracing hate and violence; the peaceful Paul is driven to physically assault another human being, and Albert, once an inoffensive scholar, becomes
obsessed with a desire for murderous revenge.
Every character in Laughter in the Dark suffers the degeneration of his or her material and/or spiritual well-being; this is a grim story, and Nabokov, as far as I could tell,
presents this tale without sarcasm or irony. The characters and their disastrous fates seem very believable, so that I was dismayed and disturbed by
the dreadful events Nabokov describes. Very