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The Gift is the last of the novels Nabokov wrote in his native Russian and the crowning achievement of that period in his literary career. It is also his ode to Russian literature, evoking the works of Pushkin, Gogol, and others in the course of its narrative: the story of Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev, an impoverished émigré poet living in Berlin, who dreams of the book he will someday write--a book very much like The Gift itself.
work was not a qualitative but a quantitative concept, and that “if someone were to take some miserable, forgotten novel and carefully cull all its flashes of observation, he would collect a fair number of sentences that would not differ in worth from those constituting the pages of works we admire.” Even more: “It is sufficient to take a look at the trinkets fabricated in Paris, at those elegant articles of bronze, porcelain and wood, in order to understand how impossible it is nowadays to draw
brothel.” For of course the inevitable happened: the eminently pure Chernyshevski (who had never been to a brothel), in his artless aspiration to equip communal love with especially beautiful trappings, involuntarily and unconsciously, out of the simplicity of his imagination, had worked his way through to those very ideals that had been evolved by tradition and routine in houses of ill repute; his gay “evening ball,” based on freedom and equality in relations between the sexes (first one and
for the first month and a half of the journey. On July 23rd they brought him at last to the mines of the Nerchin mountain district at Kadaya: ten miles from China, four thousand six hundred from St. Petersburg. He was not made to work much. He lived in a badly caulked cottage and suffered from rheumatism. Two years passed. Suddenly a miracle happened: Olga Sokratovna prepared to join him in Siberia. During most of his imprisonment in the fortress she, it is said, had been coursing about in the
the Kirghiz and the Cossacks in connection with the summons to do war work). Just before his departure in June 1916, Godunov-Cherdyntsev came from town to Leshino to bid his family farewell. Until the very last minute Fyodor dreamed that his father would take him with him—once he had said he would do so as soon as his son was fifteen—“At any other time I would take you,” he said now, as if forgetting that for him time was always another one. In itself this last farewell was in no way different
absolute pitch of her instinct for everything that he himself loved? In talking to her one could get along without any bridges, and he would barely have time to notice some amusing feature of the night before she would point it out. And not only was Zina cleverly and elegantly made to measure for him by a very painstaking fate, but both of them, forming a single shadow, were made to the measure of something not quite comprehensible, but wonderful and benevolent and continuously surrounding them.