Russian-born American Novelist, Poet, Critic
Vladimir Nabokov, fully Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov
Russian-born American Novelist, Poet, Critic
The gentle and vague regions in which I moved assets were poets, not the land of crime
The problem lies not with the characters within the novel, but with the reader itself.
The time, the place, the torture. Her fan, her gloves, her mask. I spent that night and many others getting it out of her bit by bit, but not getting it all. I was under the strange delusion that first I must find out every detail, reconstruct every minute, and only then decide whether I could bear it. But the limit of desired knowledge was unattainable, nor could I ever foretell the approximate point after which I might imagine myself satiated, because of course the denominator of every fraction of knowledge was potentially as infinite as the number of intervals between the fractions themselves.
There exist few things more tedious than a discussion of general ideas inflicted by author or reader upon a work of fiction. The purpose of this foreword is not to show that Bend Sinister belongs or does not belong to serious literature (which is a euphemism for the hollow profundity and the ever-welcome commonplace). I have never been interested in what is called the literature of social comment (in journalistic and commercial parlance: great books). I am not sincere, I am not provocative, I am not satirical. I am neither a didacticist nor an allegorizer. Politics and economics, atomic bombs, primitive and abstract art forms, the entire Orient, symptoms of thaw in Soviet Russia, the Future of Mankind, and so on, leave me supremely indifferent. As in the case of my Invitation to a Beheading - with which this book has obvious affinities - automatic comparisons between Bend Sinister and Kafka's creations or Orwell's cliches would go merely to prove that the automaton could not have read either the great German writer or the mediocre English one.
There, on the soft sand, a few feet away from our elders, we would sprawl all morning, in a petrified paroxysm of desire, and take advantage of every blessed quirk in space and time to touch each other: her hand, half-hidden in the sand, would creep toward me, its slender brown fingers sleepwalking nearer and nearer; then, her opalescent knee would start on a long cautious journey; sometimes a chance rampart built by younger children granted us sufficient concealment to graze each other's salty lips; these incomplete contacts drove our healthy and inexperienced young bodies to such a state of exasperation that not even the cold blue water, under which we still clawed at each other, could bring relief.
To each, or about each, of his colleagues he had said at one time or other, something... something impossible to recall in this or that case and difficult to define in general terms -- some careless bright and harsh trifle that had grazed a stretch of raw flesh.
Vivian Bloodmark, a philosophical friend of mine, in later years, used to say that while the scientist sees everything that happens in one point in space, the poet sees everything that happens in one point in time. Lost in thought, he taps his knee with his wandlike pencil, and at the same instant a car (New York license plate) passes along the road, a child bangs the screen door of a neighbouring porch, an old man yawns in a misty Turkestan orchard, a granule of cinder-grey sand is rolled by the wind on Venus, a Docteur Jacques Hirsch in Grenoble puts on his reading glasses, and trillions of other such trifles occur - all forming an instantaneous and transparent organism of events, of which the poet (sitting in a lawn chair in Ithaca, N.Y.) is the nucleus.
We shall connect the points, draw the line, and you and I shall form that unique design for which I yearn. If they do this kind of thing to me every morning, they will get me trained and I shall become quite wooden.
While a few pertinent points have to be marked, the general impression I desire to convey is of a side door crashing open in life’s full flight, and a rush of roaring black time drowning with its whipping wind the cry of lone disaster.
You know, I still feel in my wrists certain echoes of the pram-pusher’s knack, such as, for example, the glib downward pressure one applied to the handle in order to have the carriage tip up and climb the curb. First came an elaborate mouse-gray vehicle of Belgian make, with fat autoid tires and luxurious springs, so large that it could not enter our puny elevator. It rolled on sidewalks in a slow stately mystery, with the trapped baby inside lying supine, well covered with down, silk and fur; only his eyes moved, warily, and sometimes they turned upward with one swift sweep of their showy lashes to follow the receding of branch-patterned blueness that flowed away from the edge of the half-cocked hood of the carriage, and presently he would dart a suspicious glance at my face to see if the teasing trees and sky did not belong, perhaps to the same order of things as did rattles and parental humor. There followed a lighter carriage, and in this, as he spun along, he would tend to rise, straining at his straps; clutching at the edges; standing there less like the groggy passenger of a pleasure boat than like an entranced scientist in a spaceship; surveying the speckled skeins of a live, warm world; eyeing with philosophic interest the pillow he had managed to throw overboard; falling out himself when a strap burst one day. Still later he rode in one of those small contraptions called strollers; from initial springy and secure heights the child came lower and lower, until, when he was about one and a half, he touched ground in front of the moving stroller by slipping forward out of his seat and beating the sidewalk with his heels in anticipation of being set loose in some public garden. A new wave of evolution started to swell, gradually lifting him again from the ground, when, for his second birthday, he received a four-foot-long, silver-painted Mercedes racing car operated by inside pedals, like an organ, and in this he used to drive with a pumping, clanking noise up and down the sidewalk of the Kurfurstendamm while from open windows came the multiplied roar of a dictator still pounding his chest in the Neander valley we had left far behind.
The Girl Scout’s motto is also mine. I fill my life with worthwhile deeds such as — well, never mind what. My duty is —to be useful. I am a friend to male animals. I am cheerful. I am thrifty and I am absolutely filthy in thought, word, and deed.
The quality of this novel is the way the plot is treated and not the plot itself.
The tiny madman in his padded cell.
There exist friendships which develop their own inner duration, their own eons of transparent time.
There's this place in me where your fingerprints still rest, your kisses still linger, and your whispers softly echo. It's the place where a part of you will forever be a part of me.
To know that no one before you has seen an organ you are examining, to trace relationships that have occurred to no one before, to immerse yourself in the wondrous crystalline world of the microscope, where silence reigns, circumscribed by its own horizon, a blindingly white arena — all this is so enticing that I cannot describe it.
Wanted, wanted: Dolores Haze Hair: brown. Lips: scarlet. Age: five thousand three hundred days. Profession: none, or «starlet».
We should not try to mediate constructions' reality and realities' construction.
While dragging herself up she had to hang onto the rail. Her twisted progress was that of a cripple. Once on the open deck she felt the solid impact of the black night, and the mobility of the accidental home she was about to leave. Although Lucette had never died before—no, dived before, Violet—from such a height, in such a disorder of shadows and snaking reflections, she went with hardly a splash through the wave that humped to welcome her. That perfect end was spoiled by her instinctively surfacing in an immediate sweep — instead of surrendering under water to her drugged lassitude as she had planned to do on her last night ashore if it ever did come to this. The silly girl had not rehearsed the technique of suicide as, say, free-fall parachutists do every day in the element of another chapter. Owing to the tumultuous swell and her not being sure which way to peer through the spray and the darkness and her own tentaclinging hair—t,a,c,l—she could not make out the lights of the liner, an easily imagined many-eyed bulk mightily receding in heartless triumph. Now I’ve lost my next note. Got it. The sky was also heartless and dark, and her body, her head,and particularly those damned thirsty trousers, felt clogged with Oceanus Nox, n,o,x. At every slap and splash of cold wild salt, she heaved with anise-flavored nausea and there was an increasing number, okay, or numbness, in her neck and arms. As she began losing track of herself, she thought it proper to inform a series of receding Lucettes—telling them to pass it on and on in a trick-crystal regression—that what death amounted to was only a more complete assortment of the infinite fractions of solitude. She did not see her whole life flash before her as we all were afraid she might have done; the red rubber of a favorite doll remained safely decomposed among the myosotes of an un-analyzable brook; but she did see a few odds and ends as she swam like a dilettante Tobakoff in a circle of brief panic and merciful torpor. She saw a pair of new vairfurred bedroom slippers, which Brigitte had forgotten to pack; she saw Van wiping his mouth before answering, and then, still withholding the answer, throwing his napkin on the table as they both got up; and she saw a girl with long black hair quickly bend in passing to clap her hands over a dackel in a half-tom wreath. A brilliantly illumined motorboat was launched from the not-too-distant ship with Van and the swimming coach and the oilskin-hooded Toby among the would-be saviors; but by that time a lot of sea had rolled by and Lucette was too tired to wait. Then the night was filled with the rattle of an old but still strong helicopter. Its diligent beam could spot only the dark head of Van, who, having been propelled out of the boat when it shied from its own sudden shadow, kept bobbing and bawling the drowned girl’s name in the black, foam-veined, complicated waters.
You know, what's so dreadful about dying is that you are completely on your own.
The good, the admirable reader identifies himself not with the boy or the girl in the book, but with the mind that conceived and composed that book.
The reason we think of death in celestial terms is that the visible firmament, especially at night ... is the most adequate and ever-present symbol of that vast silent explosion.
The train was now going fast. Franz suddenly clutched his side, transfixed by the thought that he had lost his wallet which contained so much.
There he stood, in the camouflage of sun and shade, disfigured by them and masked by his own nakedness.
This irritated or puzzled such students of literature and their professors as were accustomed to ‘serious’ courses replete with ‘trends ’ and ‘schools ’ and ‘myths ’ and ‘symbols ’ and ‘social comment ’ and something unspeakably spooky called ‘climate of thought.’ Actually these ‘serious’ courses were quite easy ones with the students required to know not the books but about the books.