Friday, September 4, 2015

A Nabokov pencil

Vladimir is sick in bed, suffering from one of his “numerous childhood illnesses.” His mother has gone out to buy the daily present that went with illness. He visualizes her traveling down the street by sleigh and stopping at Treumann’s “(writing implements, bronze baubles, playing cards).” She leaves the shop, still in his mind’s eye, with her footman, who carries what appears to be a pencil. Why is she making the man carry a thing so small? And now she returns, and it turns out that the present had been, in Vladimir’s mind’s eye, “greatly reduced in size — perhaps, because I subliminally corrected what logic warned me might still be the dreaded remnants of delirium’s dilating world.”

Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory (1966).

Related reading, via Pinboard
All OCA Nabokov posts
All OCA pencil posts
All OCA Nabokov and pencils posts

comments: 2

Berit said...

Astonishing! It truly WAS a giant pencil; and not just a large object to make one think of pencils. The other bits: by sleigh, using the professional appeal of a doctor that she must be permitted to buy pencil for a surely necessary impact upon young patient's health...I want to read more.

Michael Leddy said...

Nabokov mentions a coachman too, riding behind his mother. (And, elsewhere, he lets it drop that his family employed fifty household servants.) I think “Doctor” here is a spurious title for a person in some business role who has to approve selling something not really for sale.

Nabokov is one of my favorite writers of sentences. This book (our summer-reading-club pick) is a delight. I’m sure I’ll be posting more.