It was reported recently that Nobokov’s son, Dmitri, had promised his father that a novel he was working on would at the time of his death would not be published. Dmitri, it is reported, has decided to publish it anyway. I wonder if this story was included in the embargo that Dmitri has no lifted. In any case, the notes say that a new edition of Nabokov’s collected works will be published later this year and this story, from about 1924, is appearing for the first time in English (which is not to say that it wasn’t published in its original Russian; that we aren’t told).
Natash and her father Alexey Ivanych are exiled from Russia and the old man is sick. Their neighbor, Baron Wolfe, has his eye on Natasha and seems, like a wolf at the door, to be waiting for Alexey’s death. There is some kind of magic afoot in this story, but also characters who lie to each other. Natasha tells Wolfe that her father is recovered. Alexey knows Natasha has returned before she has appeared and later knows that Wolfe has gone out. Natasha tells Wolfe about her visions, but then says she was lying. (Was she?) And Wolfe tells about his adventures in India and Africa and then later says he was lying. The story turns, finally, on a last vision that Natasha has.
What can we make of all this. I can imagine that Natasha might have wished that her visions were a lie, but that she did in fact have them. But what is Nabokov saying here? Since the story is online, please read it and share your thoughts.
June 9 & 16, 2008: “Natasha” by Vladimir Nabokov
Note, also, that there is an audio online of Mary Gaitskill readying Nabokov’s story “Symbols and Signs.”