Thursday, July 12, 2012

  The nurse went back to Petersburg; leaning out of the carriage for a long while she waved her dumpy little arm and the wind worried her wimple. The house was cool, with spreads of sunlight here and there on the floor. Two weeks later he was already riding himself to exhaustion on his bicycle and playing Russian skittles in the evening with the son of the cowman. After another week the event he had been waiting for happened. "And where is it all now?" mused Ganin. "Where is the happiness, the sunshine, where are those thick skittles of wood which crashed and bounced so nicely, where is my bicycle with the low handlebars and the big gear? It seems there's a law which says that nothing ever vanishes, that matter is indestructible; therefore the chips from my skittles and the spokes of my bicycle still exist somewhere to this day. The pity of it is that I'll never find them again - never. I once read about the 'eternal return.' But what if this complicated game of patience never comes out a second time? Let me see - there's something I don't grasp - yes, this: surely it won't all die when I do? Right now I'm alone in a foreign city. Drunk. My head's buzzing from beer laced with cognac. I have tramped my fill. And if my heart bursts, right now, then my whole world bursts with it? Cannot grasp it."


  Amid the hot yellow glare, amid the sounds that took on visible form in the folds of crimson and silvery headscarves, fluttering eyelashes, black shadows on the roof beams shifting whenever there was a puff of the night breeze, amid all this glitter and popular music, among all the heads and shoulders in the large, crowded barn, Ganin saw only one thing: he stared ahead at a brown tress tied with a black bow, slightly frayed at the edges, and his eyes caressed the dark, smooth, girlish sheen of the hair at her temple. Whenever she turned her face sideways to give the girl sitting beside her one of her rapid smiling glances, he could also see the strong color in her cheek, the corner of a flashing, Tartar eye, the delicate curve of her nostril alternately stretching and tightening as she laughed. Later, when the concert was over, the Petersburg bass was driven away in the local mill owner's huge car which cast a mysterious light over the grass and then, with a sweep of its beam, dazzled a sleeping birch tree and the footbridge over a brook; and when the crowd of fair vacationists, in a festive flutter of white frocks, drifted away through the blue darkness across the dew-laden clover, and someone lit a cigarette in the dark, holding the flaring match to his face in cupped hands - Ganin, in a state of lonely excitement, walked home, the spokes of his bicycle clicking faintly as he pushed it by the saddle.

- Vladimir Nabokov


  1. in my book, the corner of page 45 is turned back. your second quoted passage is on that page. the previous owner of the book must've also loved it.

    i do, too.