March 01, 2014

Chasing Nabokov

Chasing Nabokov

“You have to walk through the path that runs through the entire village. You’ll pass by an abandoned electrical factory, a bunch of huts, and a tractor standing in front of a large mound of dirt. Turn right there and walk for about ten minutes, and when you reach a little meadow and see an oak grove to your left and hear a waterfall to your right, you’ll be standing in the spot where Nabokov’s house used to be.”

These were the instructions given to me by the tour guide at the Nabokov estate on how to get to Vyra. Vyra. The country home Nabokov had described with such languorous longing and parched nostalgia in Speak Memory, Mary, and countless Russian poems, where he had discovered through nature those literary techniques that he would later release through art.

Vyra was where he had experienced those first thrills of what he termed aesthetic bliss: “a lark ascending the curds-and-whey sky of a dull spring day, heat lightning taking pictures of a distant line of trees in the night, the palette of maple leaves on brown sand, a small bird’s cuneate footprints on new snow.”*

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