Tuesday, February 1, 2011

   A child's hand, undoubtedly Emmie's, had drawn a set of pictures, forming (as it had seemed to Cincinnatus yesterday) a coherent narrative, a promise, a sample of phantasy. First there was a horizontal line - that is, this stone floor; on it was a rudimentary chair somewhat like an insect, and above was a grating made of six squares. Then came the same picture but with the addition of a full moon, the corners of its mouth drooping sourly beyond the grating. Next, a stool composed of three strokes with an eyeless (hence, sleeping) jailer on it and, on the floor, a ring with six keys. Then the same key ring, only a little larger, with a hand, extremely pentadactyl and in a short sleeve, reaching for it. here it begins to get interesting. The door is ajar in the next drawing, and beyond it something looking like a bird's spur-all that is visible of the fleeing prisoner. Then he himself, with commas on his head instead of hair, in a dark little robe, represented to the best of the artist's ability by an isosceles triangle; he is being led by a little girl: prong-like legs, wavy skirt, parallel lines of hair. Then the same again, only in the form of a plan: a square for the cell, an angled line for the corridor, with a dotted line indicating the route and an accordionlike staircase at the end. And finally the epilogue: the dark tower, above it a pleased moon, with the corners of its mouth curling upward.
   No - this was only self-deception, nonsense. The child had doodled aimlessly...Let us copy out the titles and lay the catalogue aside. Yes, the child...With the tip of her tongue showing at the right corner of her mouth, tightly holding the stubby pencil, pressing down upon it with a finger white with effort...And then, after connecting a particularly successful line, leaning back, rolling her head this way and that, wriggling her shoulders, and, going back to work on the paper, shifting her tongue to the left corner...so painstakingly...Nonsense, let's not dwell on it any more...

- Vladimir Nabokov
Invitation to a Beheading