Pentagram has unveiled lovely new covers for seven Vladimir Nabokov titles. Far from the somber, desolate images that gum up many of Nabokov’s books — something we’ve never understood, given the playfulness of his prose — Pentagram’s designs introduce a gentle blast of whimsy. Each features an illustration, with a background pattern that riffs off a game, sport or an illusion relevant to the book.
So for Look at the Harlequins! you’ve got harlequin legs peeking out from the diamonds of a red-black-and-white harlequin print. The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, meanwhile, is dotted with tiny chess pieces — a nod to the novel’s abundant nerdy chess references (characters include Sebastian Knight and SK and Clare Bishop).
Pentagram’s Angus Hyland designed the covers, with help from outside illustrators, for Penguin. The concept responds to a brief set forth by Penguin art director Jim Stoddart “to focus more on the playful and satirical aspects of Nabokov’s writing in the hopes that this might encourage a new generation of readers,” Pentagram writes on its website.
We have no idea whether a chess motif will actually lure the young?uns away from sexy vampires (or is it werewolves now? we can’t keep up) and into Nabokov’s beautiful, peculiar universe. We’re gonna guess no. But it’s always nice to see fresh design that tries to add a little light to our lives, if not fire to our loins.