There are different threads that connect the stories that found a place in “Sounds and Other Stories” (translation: Maria Hadjieva), ed. “Hummingbird”. One thing is for sure – these stories are permeated by the uncompromising observation that “a book cannot be read, it can only be re-read.”
The musical theme sets the tone of the collection, and the melody of the rain is heard, interrupted by musical pauses. The following are the topics of chance, the role of fate and deceptive happiness, and writing, mystified authorship, the relationship with criticism and the reader.
A peculiar point of the first dozen in the selection is the twelfth story, “Christmas”, after which the playful “Fairy Tale” switches the arrow on the rails with the themes of the dictator, the violence in the next group of stories.
In line with Nabokov’s insistence that one does not read, but always rereads, the story “Circle” is a final return to the beginning and at the same time cyclically recalls the fantasy of the thirteenth, which turns out to be the first: “Please come: on a hot summer day in mid-June… ”
Photo: Kolibri Publishing House
About the author
Vladimir Nabokov is an iconic name in modern prose of the twentieth century – along with Joyce and Kafka. A remarkable novelist, poet, literary critic and translator, he was born into an aristocratic family in St. Petersburg and later emigrated with his parents to England.
Known as a cosmopolitan figure with a bright personality, Nabokov is distinguished by the richness and depth of his linguistic skill, his erudite style and unusual creative inventions.
Works such as The Wizard, Lolita, Laughter in the Dark and Invitation to Execution establish him as one of the most authoritative and influential stylists of our time. A Mashenka was released in 1926 under the pseudonym W. Sirin and screened in Britain in 1987 by director John Goldschmidt.
Excerpt from the story “Sounds”
The window had to be closed: hitting the ledge, rain was spraying on the parquet, on the armchair. Huge silver ghosts floated in the garden, on the greenery, on the orange sand, with a fresh and slippery rustle. The water pipe echoed and sobbed. You played Bach. The piano had raised a lacquered wing, a lyre lay beneath the wing, and hammers ran along the strings.
From the tail of the piano, a purl carpet slid in rough folds, dropping the open opus on the parquet. Sometimes, in the excitement of the joint, the ring rattled on the keys, and the July torrents kept drumming beautifully and beautifully on the window. And without stopping to play, tilting your head slightly, you exclaimed in time – reluctantly sang:
– Rain, rain… I drown it out.
But you couldn’t silence him.
Detached from the albums stacked like velvet coffins on the table, I watched you, listened to the fugue, the rain, and a feeling rose in me, fresh as the smell of wet carnations, flowing from all sides: from the shelves, from the piano wing, from the oblong ones. chandelier diamonds.
There was a sense of some ecstatic balance: and I felt the musical connection between the silver rain ghosts and your sloping shoulders, trembling as he stuck his fingers in the fragile glow. And when I sank into myself, the whole world seemed to me like that – complete, coherent, connected by the laws of harmony.
I, you, the torrent, the carnations were at that moment a vertical chord on the note lines. I realized that everything in the world is a game of the same particles, making up different consonances: the trees, the water, you… One, equal, divine. You got up. The rain was still setting the sun. The puddles looked like pits in the dark sand, glistening in some other sky that slid underground. On the bench, shining like Danish porcelain, lay a forgotten rocket, the strings browned by the rain, the frame bent like an octagon.
When we stepped on the alley – I was slightly dizzy from the colorful shadows, from the rotting mushrooms. I remember you in some sunshine. He had sharp elbows and pale, smoky eyes. Speaking, he cut the air with the back of his hand, the glitter of the bracelet on his weak wrist. Your hair passed, melting in the sunlight, flickering around them. He smoked profusely and hurriedly. He blew smoke through both nostrils, awkwardly shaking the ashes.
Your gray mansion was five miles from ours. Your mansion was ringing, lavish, and cool. A picture of him had appeared in a glossy metropolitan magazine. Almost every morning I threw myself on the leather wedge of the bicycle and if I made a noise, I made a noise on the path, through the forest, on the road, through the village and again on the path – to you. You hoped your husband wouldn’t come until October. And we were not afraid of anything, nor of the gossip of your servants, nor of the suspicions of my family. We both believed in destiny in different ways.
Your love was as deaf as your voice. You loved as if from under your eyebrows and never talked about love – never. She was one of those women who is usually silent and whose silence you get used to right away. But sometimes something inside you was unlocking. Then your huge Bechstein was thundering – or with a blurred look in front of you he was telling me a lot of funny jokes heard by your husband and his regimental comrades. I remember your hands – long, pale, with bluish veins.
On that happy day, when the torrent was drumming and you were playing so unheard ofly well, the vague that had imperceptibly surfaced between us after the first weeks of love was resolved. I realized that you have no power over me, that not only you, but the whole earth is my mistress. My soul seemed to have released countless sensitive tentacles, and I lived in everything, while I felt Niagara thunder somewhere behind the window and elongated golden drops rustle and splash in the alley.
I looked at the gleaming bark of a birch and suddenly felt: I have no hands, but bent twigs with tiny wet leaves, and no feet, but a thousand thin roots, meandering, drinking the earth. I wanted to pour myself into the whole nature, to experience what it means to be an old mushroom with a porous yellow lower part, a dragonfly, a sun wheel. I was so happy that I suddenly laughed, kissed you on the collarbone, on the back of your head. I would even recite verses to you, but you could not stand them. He smiled thinly and said,
– How nice after rain. He thought about it and added, “You know, now I remember that the one who was Pal Palic invited me to tea for today.” It’s terribly boring, but you know, there’s no way.
I have known Pal Palic for a long time: we used to fish together, and he suddenly sang “Evening Bell” with a mournful tenor. I loved him very much. A drop of fire fell from a leaf directly onto my lips. I offered to come with you. You shrugged coldly.
“We will die of boredom there.”
He looked at his wrist and sighed.
“It’s time. I have to go change my shoes.”
In your misty bedroom, the sun crept down two golden stairs, penetrating through the lowered shutters. You said something deafly. Behind the window, with a happy rustle, they breathed, the trees dripped. And smiling at the rustling, I hugged you lightly and not eagerly.
It was like this: on one bank of the river – your park, your meadows, on the other – the village. There were deep potholes in places on the road; the greasy mud was purple, bubbly water the color of coffee with milk stood in the tracks. The curved shadows of the black houses from the beams were especially sharp.
We walked in the shadows along a paved path past the grocery store, past the emerald-listed pub, past the sun-filled courtyards, smelling of manure and fresh hay.
The school was new, brick, surrounded by maples. In the doorway, through a gaping door, a peasant woman with peeling calves was squeezing a rag into a bucket.
“Is Pal Palic home?”
The peasant woman (freckles, shallows) squints at the sun.
“Well, he’s home,” he said, banging his rattling bucket with his heel. “Come in, ma’am.” They will be in the workshop.
We creaked down the dark hallway, then through a spacious classroom. In passing, I glanced at the bluish map; I thought: all over Russia it is like this – sun, pits… In one corner a trampled chalk shone. And further on, in the small workshop, it smelled pleasantly of carpenter’s glue, of sawdust. Without a jacket, slack and sweaty, Pal Palic was planing, his left foot forward, playing loudly with the planer on the singing whiteboard. His damp baldness swayed back and forth in a dusty beam. Sawdust curled like light curls on the floor under the counter.
I said loudly:
– Pal Palic, you have guests!
He shuddered, suddenly embarrassed, vainly slapped your hand, which he raised with such a weak, so familiar movement, for a moment he stuck wet fingers in my wrist and shook it. His face, sculpted as if from greasy plasticine, with a light mustache and unexpected wrinkles.
“I’m sorry, you know, I’m not dressed,” he grinned shyly.
He grabbed two cylinders standing side by side from the ledge. He hurriedly put them on.
– And what are you working on? He asked, and your bracelet flashed.
Pal Palic swung his jacket over.
“Just like that, a small thing,” he muttered, stumbling slightly on his lip consonants. “A pointer.” I haven’t finished it yet. Then I will sand it, I will varnish it. Better see the so-called “fly” “
With a blow to his folded palms, he spun a small wooden helicopter, which, buzzing, took off, hit the ceiling, and fell.
A shadow of a polite smile slid across your face.
“But so am I!” Pal Palic fussed again. “Let’s go upstairs, gentlemen.” The door creaked here. Sorry. Let me pass in front of you. I’m afraid it’s messy with me…
“He seems to have forgotten that he invited me,” she told you in English as we climbed the unpainted creaking stairs.
I looked at your back, the silk plaids on your blouse. Somewhere down below, probably in the yard, a ringing female voice was heard: “Gerasim! Hey, Gerasim! ” – and suddenly it became so clear to me that for centuries the world has blossomed, withered, spun, changed only to connect and merge right now, right now in a vertical chord, the voice that rang down, the movement of your silks blades, the smell of pine boards…