Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025365, Sun, 4 May 2014 13:30:06 -0400

THOUGHTS: Trains in VN's work
Jansy Mello writes:

"The then great and glamorous Nord Express (it was never the same after
World War I), consisting solely of such international cars and running but
twice a week, connected St. Petersburg with Paris..." Vladimir Nabokov,
"First Love."

Jansy Mello: We all know how important trains were for Nabokov, particularly
in his childhood and early adolescence. There's the lyric "First Love"
story, the tragic "A Matter of Chance," "When in Aleppo once" and his
detailed illustration of Anna Karenin's cabin, but shorter references to
trains abound (such as Gradus's approach in America, or the encounter in
However, my interest on trains arose out of the blue, by random readings and
associations ( and I shall be watching the London production of "A Dashing
Fellow" that connects three different Nabokov short-stories that take place
in trains...)
During my fumbling searches I came across sentences that sounded like a
train moving faster and faster, a sense of tragedy, anguish and human folly,
and a particular verbal quality of what, at first, I could only classify as
"junction/disjunction" - until I came across Nabokov's use of the lines "
suicide by anastomosis."
A little investigation in the Internet and I came to a poster (from 1921, I
think) representing the Nord Express, now no longer linking Lisbon and Paris
to St.Petersburg. What I found in it was a point of "junction" when various
lines converged and branched out again in and out of Berlin.
No longer Biarritz or the Riviera were Nabokov's happy destinies, but
Fate's strange designs and "anastomosis."

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
Co-Editor, NABOKV-L

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