Lila Azam Zanganeh - Deliciously mad, borne by seamless joy and erudition, affirming nothing but its own pleasure in wandering these lands, this Enchanter is an Unidentified Literary Object, fluttering mischievously between biography, autobiography, scholarly thesis, and, of course, the search of lost time and lost countries
Lila Azam Zanganeh, The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness, W. W. Norton & Company, 2011.
Discovering happiness in reading the work of an extraordinary writer.
The protagonist of Vladimir Nabokov's The Gift playfully dreamed of writing "A Practical Handbook: How to Be Happy." Now, Nabokov's own creative reader Lila Azam Zanganeh lends life to this vision with sly sophistication and ebullient charm, as she shares the delirious joy to be found in reading the masterpieces of "the great writer of happiness."
Plunging into the enchanted and luminous worlds of Speak, Memory; Ada, or Ardor; and the infamous Lolita, Azam Zanganeh seeks out the Nabokovian experience of time, memory, sexual passion, nature, loss, love in all its forms, and language in all its allusions. She explores Nabokov's geography-from his Russian childhood to the landscapes of "his" America-suffers encounters with his beloved "nature," hallucinates an interview with the master, and seeks the "crunch of happiness" in his singular vocabulary. This beautifully illuminated book will both reignite the passion of experienced Nabokovians and lure the innocent reader to a well of delights as yet unseen.
"The Enchanter is, in its subtle, light-spirited way, a triumph, a work that manages to say interesting things about Nabokov while remaining faithful to its own artistic spirit … But be warned—it's like nothing you've read before."William Skidelsky
"A very idiosyncratic marriage of fact and fiction … With The Enchanter, Zanganeh recalls her rapture at discovering Nabokov—'Every page, every sentence, read and reread by a little maniac in the making, wide eyes glowing slightly brighter by the day'—and channels it into a kind of evocation of the writer."Stephen Heyman
"With an academic's careful eye and a true reader's passion, Azam Zanganeh illuminates how 'the luscious literary glee' of Nabokov's work can 're-enchant the world'."Books in Brief
"Think of The Enchanter as a delightful tumble into a Nabokovian rabbit hole, and Azam Zanganeh's manic passion will be hard to resist."Carmela Ciuraru
"It is a contagion of happiness, a landscape of luminous discovery. Facts, words, characters, style, invention—she writes in flashes, like a camera lens opening and closing … At times, one feels helpless and transported, led by the hand (two hands—Azam Zanganeh's and Nabokov's) to a very strange and glittering place."Susan Salter Reynolds
"Lila Azam Zanganeh has managed to fend off infatuation and other pitfalls of paying tribute to one's favorite author, and offers a quirky celebration of the Russian-born writer, loosely knitting together his life and fiction with startling originality."David Takami
"What I like most about Lila Azam Zanganeh's The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness is that she succeeds in capturing the peculiar kind of delight in Nabokov that lights up the neural pleasure zones." Ron Rosenbaum
"The main contention of this whimsical, intriguing and at times bewildering work is that the author of Lolita is 'the great writer of happiness' … Zanganeh is working on her first novel. To judge by some of the prose in The Enchanter, it will be a thing of wonder."Ángel Gurría-Quintana
"A flight of imagination that should appeal to anyone who has ever obsessively devoted him or herself to a favorite author."Morris Hounion
"Mixing fantasy and autobiography, literary criticism and fiction, she writes a text pertaining to an entirely new genre. Illustrated fable and erudite essay."Alessandra Iadicicco
"There are the reflections of the Nabokovian mirror, but every room is illuminated by the author herself: it is the light of a favorable dusk, as Zanganeh says that she has always had the sensation of starting at the end, of arriving at the tail-end of great times."Tiziano Gianotti
"A non-biography composed by Azam Zanganeh, which attracts like a flight of butterflies, that other great Nabokovian passion. A book entirely concentrated on the extraordinary linguistic invention and sunlit imagination of the writer."Larà Crinò
"The Enchanter is a bildungsroman in which Lila Azam Zanganeh awakens the Russian master's voice, and morphs into his companion in dream, observing every minute detail of his invented world."Berta Ares
"Deliciously mad, borne by seamless joy and erudition, affirming nothing but its own pleasure in wandering these lands, this Enchanter is an Unidentified Literary Object, fluttering mischievously between biography, autobiography, scholarly thesis, and, of course, the search of lost time and lost countries."Olivier Mony
"She invites us from beginning to end to appreciate the world 'through the Nabokovian lens.' It is in sum a method she proposes, implying that happiness is within our reach, that in order to access it we need to become ourselves, by impregnation and mimetic design, characters of his œuvre."Eric Chevillard
"This book is written with electric enthusiasm, as though in a drunken state. Its definition for 'novelist' is impeccable: 'an immortal Alice in the real world.' And this writer dares begin, like Lévi-Strauss his Tristes Tropiques ('I hate traveling and explorers.'), with a provocation: 'I have always dreaded reading and books.'"Frédéric Beigbeder
"Azam Zanganeh sows particles of happiness experienced by Nabokov. But beyond him, she proves that, oftentimes, nothing is more real than the imagination, and that few things in life are equal to the pleasures of reading and discovering one’s own life in the gleaming mirror of another’s words."Olivia de Lamberterie
"At once an illumination and a prolongation of Nabokov's work. Through this lyrical homage to the great writer, it is the fanciful universe of a new writer that we witness in its birth. Displaying a creative freedom mixing audacity, invention, and gratitude … Her book is to be placed in all hands, perhaps especially in the hands of those who resist reading." Sabine Audrerie
"Drawn with a pen at once subtle, poetic, original, and very nearly in love, this biography of emotions has the surprising charm of a fantasy made literature: this prodigiously talented young writer invites us to a stunning and sensual promenade through the Nabokovian imagination—pure seduction!"Joëlle Brack
"This book is plainly not an analysis of Nabokov’s work in the academic sense. Rather, it is something intimate, a constant physical connectedness with its characters, an indispensable game to ferret out the great player in his ruses, with echoes of Alice in Wonderland … It is rare, a gifted writer manifesting such grace."Pierre Assouline
"In this lithesome and serious book, halfway between essay and fiction, where Azam Zanganeh feigns to remember the writer as a friend, one might feel in the very pages of the most Russian of American writers." Michel Schneider
"It is the essence of the Nabokovian text which Lila Azam Zanganeh, in this sumptuous book, manages to catch in her delicate net."Didier Jacob
"The Enchanter: Nabokov and Happiness is a playfully written 'roadnovel.' It opens with a map of a Nabokovian world. It is up to the reader to choose his own route."Guus Bauer