Monday, July 26, 2004

Bend Sinister

Vladimir Nabokov, Bend Sinister
Skipping the preface and introduction, I read it, and then immediately read it again, aware now of Nabokov's dazzling wordplay, delicious humor, and dizzying imagination. Sure, I got the parody of Stalinism,
"You see, the general procedure is something like this: first the questionnaire must be filled, then you go to your cell. There you have a heart-to-heart talk with a fellow prisoner who is really one of our agents. Then, around two in the morning, you are roused from a fitful sleep and I start to question you again. It was thought by competent people that you would break down between six-forty and seven-fifteen. Our meteorologist predicted a particularly cheerless dawn."
followed the dream sequences,
Olga was revealed sitting before her mirror and taking off her jewels after the ball. still clad in cherry-red velvet, her strong gleaming elbows thrown back and lifted like wings, she had begun to unclasp at the back of her neck her dazzling dog collar. He knew it would come off together with her vertebrae...
caught the obvious imagery--but I had glossed over the tiny interjections, which Nabokov reveals in the introduction.
It may be asked if it is really worth an author's while to devise and distribute these delicate markers whose very nature requires that they be not too conspicuous.... Most people will not even mind having missed all this; well-wishers will bring their own little symbols and mobiles, and portable radios, to my little party; ironists will point out the fatal fatuity of my explications in this foreword and advise me to have footnotes next time (footnotes always seem comic to a certain type of mind). In the long run, it is only the author's private satisfaction that counts.

Enjoy your own tangential pleasure, then, and read--and re-read--Bend Sinister.


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