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Vladimir Nabokov: Камера Обскура (Camera Obscura; Laughter in the Dark)

The original English translation was entitled Camera Obscura and was translated by Winifred Roy. Nabokov did not like the translation and redid it himself in 1938 for the American market, changing some of the names as well. Once again, it is a story about obsession and love triangles. Nabokov tells at the beginning what it is about. Once upon a time there lived in Berlin, Germany, a man called Albinus. He was rich, respectable, happy; one day he abandoned his wife for the sake of a youthful mistress; he loved; was not loved; and his life ended in disaster. Albert Albinus (he was called Kretschmar in the original) is an art critic. He is happily married and has a daughter. One day, he meets a film usher, Margot (Magda), and falls for her. She is only interested in his money. They start an affair. However, she eventually gets back with a former lover, the cartoonist, Axel Rex (Robert Horn), and they carry on behind Albinus’ back. Albinus has a car crash, in which he is blinded. Margot and Axel carry on in his presence, teasing him. Of course, it all ends in tragedy. Another obsession gone wrong.

Publishing history

First published 1933 by Parabola, Berlin
First English translation 1935 by John Long