Nabokov’s Quartet – Vladimir Nabokov (1966) (1st ed)


Nabokov’s Quartet – Vladimir Nabokov (1966) (1st ed)


Title: Nabokov’s Quartet

Author: Vladimir Nabokov

Publisher: Phaedrea, New York, 1966. Stated first edition.

Condition: Hardcover, with dust jacket. Very good. Very slight foxing to fore-edge. 104pp., app 8.5″x5″.

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About the book (from jacket flap):

The four stories in this volume, two published for the first time in this country, and the other two previously published in The New Yorker and Esquire, add luster to a sharply illuminated writer.

Nabokov shows a distinctive ability to handle dreams as reality and reality as a dream; in the story “An Affair of Honor,” a puny spirit, a coward, manages to obliterate reality in favour of a convenient dream, that the other man in the duel ran away, not he.

The story “Visit to a Museum” is spun like honey fibers, presenting the familiar walls of a museum like the epidermis of a lover.

In “Lik”, one of the longer stories, the reader is delighted to meet once again men out of Dostoyevski, a victim, who seems to have the soul of a girl, and is not a dupe today as he was in his youth, dancing away from the man who tortured him in years past, but also dancing close, and the sadist who needs him more that he needs bread, is driven to suicide when the victim finally shakes loose his own part of a sick spirit.

“The Vane Sisters” are painted on that by now very familiar background for American readers, the scenario of Lolita. In turn, one is reminded of Lolita’s mother, of Lolita herself; Mr. Nabokov is just as able to describe, with utter intimacy, that special way great writers have to describe, a lawn in Berlin, a lawn in Up State New York. But then the Vane sisters, as much as Lolita’s mother, have that particular American face and body, and no woman in Berlin has the same face, no Russian woman in the novel The Eye, or in the play The Waltz Invention, has the same face. How many writers are able to work in more than one country?

For the student of the short story, these stories represent a priceless lesson, or rather, a number of lessons, all very vivid.