I’ve been reading Nabokov’s early novel Bend Sinister, about political tyranny. I would call it a “crowd-displeaser”: brilliantly written, of course, but deeply depressing about politics and people. It seems to capture our current moment of mediocre pallid (or orange) men with obscene amounts of power and bad personalities. The figure of the ruler Paduk (nickname “the Toad”) is both terrifying and risible. The philosopher Krug used to bully him at school by sitting on his face, but now the tables are turned and you know it’s not going to end well for the philosopher. Nabokov’s theme is Stupidity with a capital “S”. Amen to that.
I have to say this book is the bleakest and most disturbing novel I have ever read. It’s all about political tyranny and bureaucratic incompetence. Yes, that. Human evil in all its revolting forms.