Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025712, Fri, 19 Sep 2014 11:50:51 -0300

Spring in Fialta...
Our ED suggested a deadline for presenting commentaries about the first two
chapters of "Spring in Fialta" but there were none, although I suspect that
many silent Nablers spared some time to reread this wonderful story. Perhaps
they might be interested enough to discuss a "critical examination" by Roy
Johnson that I found available on line. It brings up several topics of

36 - Spring in Fialta - a critical examination of Nabokov's collected
C Roy Johnson 2005

Excerpts: "There appears to be confusion over the date of first publication
of 'Spring in Fialta' (April 1936) but general agreement that it is the
highpoint in Nabokov's achievement as a writer of short stories.As Barbara
Heldt Monter justly claims 'It is as clear a masterpiece among Nabokov's
short stories as Lolita andPale Fire among his novels.' (Appel,p.129). It
combines a number of his favourite and well-tested themes - recapturing the
past, the Double, amorous yearning, Russia and The Woman - and to tell the
story he combines several narrative devices - circular construction, absence
of 'plot', scrambled chronology, and unreliable narrator."

"The large scale parallels between Nina and Russia are obvious enough in the
light of Nabokov's earlier stories. Victor meets Nina in the fatidic years
of 1917 and every time they subsequently meet he wishes to lead her back
into the past before discussing what they have done since they last met. He
even draws a comparison between this process and the narrative strategies
employed in Russian fairy tales, wherein 'the already told is bunched up
again at every new twist of the story' (ND,p.5)."

"These are some of the small details which form the pattern of the 'mosaic'.
But they are not just simple structural echoes or walk-on-walk-off parts for
secondary characters which in themselves would make the story no more than
choreographically interesting. They also tell us something about Victor's
reliability as a narrator. In the first of these examples it seems that he
misjudged the Englishman, and in the second it is evident that he himself
fails to recognise the little girl on the second occasion of seeing her. Are
his senses as wide open as he originally claimed they were?
Almost all other commentators on this story take Victor at face value. He
purports to be telling us of a love affair with this tantalising and
somewhat promiscuous woman which has lasted on and off for fifteen years.
Andrew Field, conflating Victor and his creator, discusses Nina in terms of
Nabokov's taste for 'acerbic women' (Field, VN, p.163). Monter describes it
as 'a love story' (Appel, p.133) and thinks the Englishman is Nabokov in
disguise just because he is a lepidopterist. And Lee only begins to suspect
an element of the Double in the relationship between Victor and Ferdinand
(Lee,p.32).[ ]In fact Victor is one of the most cunningly presented of all
Nabokov's unreliable narrators. He thinks he is telling us the truth, but
the reader is given just enough information within his account to recognise
that he is failing to understand the world he is in, deluding himself
regarding Nina, misrepresenting people and their motives, and often behaving
in a gauchely insensitive manner."

"There is an additional complication in the fact that Ferdinand is also
something of a portrait of Nabokov himself. He is given the same appearance,
he writes in a foreign language and enjoys puns, and he has the same lofty
and mocking literary manner. But this detail is best left to those like
Field who wish to read biographical significance into it (Field-VN,p.163).
'Spring in Fialta' is without doubt Nabokov's finest achievement as a writer
of short fictions, and it bears all the qualities and characteristics of the
very greatest short stories. It has a flawless unity of time, place, and
action, and its flashbacks are very elegantly and unobtrusively woven into
the narrative. It has a dense verbal texture full of echoes, poetic
repetitions, and leitmotives which are firmly related to its themes. And it
has one of the most subtly concealed of all Nabokov's unreliable narrators."

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