NABOKOV, Vladimir. Invitation to a Beheading. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1959.
8vo. Quarter red cloth over beige and white boards; spine lettered in gilt; in the original price-clipped dust-wrapper; red top edge, other edges untrimmed; pp. [iv], 5-223; light fading of spine on wrapper; and some overall shelf wear; some tears to extremities of wrapper which have been taped internally, a few larger chips, one small hole to upper panel; the wrapper good only, but internally near-fine, with slight discolouration to front free endpaper.
First English edition. Translated by Dmitri Nabokov in collaboration with the author.
Invitation to a Beheading originally appeared in Russian from 1935 to 1936 as a serial in Sovremennye zapiski, a Russian émigré magazine. In 1938, the work was published in Paris.
While Nabokov stated in an interview that of all his novels, he held the greatest affection for Lolita, it was Invitation to a Beheading that he held the greatest “esteem”. In it, a young man is condemned to death by beheading for "gnostical turpitude", an imaginary crime that defies definition. He spends his final days in an absurd jail, where he is visited by chimerical jailers, an executioner who masquerades as a fellow prisoner, and his in-laws, who lug their furniture with them into his prison cell. It has often been described as 'Kafkaesque', but Nabokov claimed that at the time he wrote the book, he was unfamiliar with German and "completely ignorant" of Franz Kafka's work.