Written in Berlin in 1934, Invitation to a Beheading contains all the surprise, excitement and magical intensity of a work created in two brief weeks of sustained inspiration. It takes us into the fantastic prison-world of Cincinnatus, a man condemned to death and spending his last days in prison not quite knowing when the end will come. Nabokov described the book as ‘a violin in a void. The worldling will deem it a trick. Old men will hurriedly turn from it to regional romances and the lives of public figures … The evil-minded will perceive in little Emmie a sister of little Lolita … But I know a few readers who will jump up, ruffling their hair’.