6 thoughts on “Collected Stories – Vladimir Nabokov


    “: — what times are upon us, a real calamity!”

    This massive book starts with the sentence “I was pensively penning the outline of the inkstand’s circular, quivering shadow.” When the narrator is visited by a chatty wood sprite. Chatting about its relationship with other sprites. And chatting about the state of the world and “We are all gone, gone, driven into exile by a crazed surveyor.” But I am also struck by the penning of the circular inkstand. Compare the psychogeography of a story I just read and reviewed here, another first story in a book, where such penned circles on a map create a skein of events. A Psycholiterary triangulation of coordinates being embarked upon in both books? Meanwhile, I thought myself as the narrator of the story am a man. Except the sprite or spirit spilt these words at one point when talking to me, me as the narrator: “— you lost your way once in a dark nook of my woods, you and some little white dress, and I kept tying the paths up in knots,…”


    “Petya owned a tiny cinema in a sparsely populated part of town,…”

    A meticulously characterised tale and tableau. Petya is the son of Martin Martinich, the latter owning a corner tobacco shop, with the eponymous sign in its show window. They are emigrés in Berlin, who kidnap – and keep in the bathroom permanently – a Bolshevik cove until Bolshevism is spent. Shades of The Unconsoled; I wonder whether this became a film to be watched in that cinema. A modest income to supplement the tobacco sales. A tale told by Martin to the narrator who, I feel, very much seemed as if he should have been carrying an ironing-board as a permanent prop. He actually sees the prisoner in the bathroom at the end of his own tale of Martin’s tale.


    “On another wall hung a framed chapter from ‘Anna Karenin’, set in such a way that the interplay of dark and light type together with the clever placement of the lines formed Tolstoy’s face.”

    This story text holds your face. A tract of unrequited love, I sense, the love I hold for you, and my ability to BE you, BE this story, BE someone by consubstantiating with the mole on his face, even letting your cigarette holder be left behind at old mate Pal Palych’s place where we visit him together, giving you the excuse or me the excuse for me to come back to you (you whose husband is a cloudy force in our future backstory?) after retrieving it from under my old pal’s armchair. A story of self-sacrifice. Of irresolute hairlessness. Of a steamship’s last instant. Of my comprehension of everything. Of the gestalt, in fact.

    “I knew that all my surroundings were notes of one and the same harmony, knew — secretly — the source and the inevitable resolution of the sounds assembled for an instant,…”


    “She repeated, narrowing her downy eyes, ‘Right up into the stars,’ and added, with a glint of her bare clavicle, ‘and now I want to dance.’”

    One of those stories that strikes me as one I will never forget, so I know I have not read it before. A sort of blend of Thomas Mann and future fantasists like Clarice Lispector, where Kern (whose wife killed herself in the past) is staying at a hotel in Zermatt, a skiing snow resort, and meets flighty Isabel who is staying in the adjoining room. He thinks he hears a dog and a guitar at night next door, blamed later by Isabel on his dreams. The outcome is wondrous. Yet tragic. Mixed with cocktail chasing – and a ‘negro band’ one of whom puts on a “white mustache.”

  5. GODS

    “First-rate fable.”

    Also a mind-boggling experimentation with many images.
    Needs reading several times, therefore does not fall within the jurisdiction of a gestalt real-time review’s strict appraisal of a first reading, as mine always is. A first rate fable.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s