NABOKV-L post 0000550, Mon, 3 Apr 1995 13:57:40 -0700

Re: Signs and Symbols poll (fwd)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sun, 2 Apr 1995 16:04:10 -0600
From: Alexander Dolinin <>
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <>
Subject: Re: Signs and Symbols poll (fwd)

The third call can not be anything but ambiguous because the text
itself intends it to remain a mystery (I am indifferent to intentions of
the author). In contrast to other Nabokov's gnostic texts, such as The
Gift, Lolita or The Vane Sisters, its open ending does not introduce a
code for non-contradictory reinterpretation of motif repetitions and
recurrences -- mostly triades as Leona Toker showed, and therefore we are
forever barred from finding out what they were, signs (of the impending and
predetermined doom) OR symbols. In this case the position of the ideal
reader is not unlike that created by The Queen of Spades, another story
about triades and their interpretations, or, for that matter, any purely
fantastic text in the Todorovian sense. Those who feel uncomfortable about
the reader's hesitation and look for "the only correct answer" should not
forget of poor Hermann's fate. He was so sure that he knew how the triade
would end but somehow pulled the wrong card. By the way, an ace of spades
is a sign of death only in a certain semiotic system; for Hermann it would
have meant the happy ending. It is hardly a coincidence that there is
another sequence of three wrong calls in a text of Nabokov (The Gift) and
the third call there signals the escape from the theater of earthly habit
and Fyodor's happy reunion with his father.