Book Quote Friday: Sounds

         For my book quote this week I've chosen a passage from Sounds, a short story by Vladimir Nabokov. He's obviously best known for Lolita and other work like Pnin and Pale Fire, but he wrote a prodigious number of short stories in his time, amongst which are some of the best examples of the form. Sounds was one of his first, and as someone at the very beginning of their much hoped-for writing career, it really interests me to see what other writers were able to achieve at the very beginning of theirs. Suffice to say, I am humbled.

        I hope you all enjoy this; I think it's a perfect suggestion of the poetic lyricism and 'fancy' sensuality and wordplay that reverberates through all of his later work.

      '...Abandoning the albums that lay on the table like velvet coffins, I watched you and listened to the fugue, the rain. A feeling of freshness welled in me like the fragrance of wet carnations that trickled down everywhere, from the shelves, from the piano's wing, from the oblong diamonds of the chandelier.

Collected Stories (Penguin Modern Classics)     I had a feeling of enraptured equilibrium as I sensed the musical relationship between the silvery spectres of rain and your inclined shoulders, which would give a shudder when you pressed your fingers into the rippling lustre. And when I withdrew deep into myself the whole world seemed like that – homogenous, congruent, bound by the laws of harmony. I myself, you, the carnations, at that instant all became vertical chords on musical staves. I realised that everything in the world was an interplay of identical particles comprising different kinds of consonance: the trees, the water, you… All was unified, equivalent, divine. You got up. Rain was still mowing down the sunlight. The puddles looked like holes in the dark sand, apertures onto some other heavens that were gliding past underground. On a bench, glistening like Danish china, lay your forgotten racquet; the strings had turned brown in the rain, and the frame had twisted into a figure eight.

      When we entered the lane, I felt a bit giddy from the motley of shadows and the aroma of mushroom rot...' 


  1. Nabokov's short stories are sadly overlooked, if you liked the style of this one, then you should also read Bunin, whose style resembles some of Nabokov's short stories and poetry. I think Nabokov's short stories are the closest distillation of the philosophy which underlines his art; that of beauty and pity. Many unfairly characterise him as being cold and aloof, when his art has a strong moral message. You should also check out 'Symbols and Signs' 'Lance' and 'The Vane Sisters.

  2. Hi, thanks for the recommendation! I'll keep an eye out for Bunin's short stories.

    Thanks for stopping by!


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