Vladimir Nabokov

In art, as in science, there is no delight without the detail.

All art is deception.

Great novels are above all great fairytales.

Lectures on Literature

Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader.

Lecture on Kafka

Beauty plus pity--that is the closest we can get to a definition of art. Where there is beauty there is pity for the simple reason that beauty must die: beauty always dies, the manner dies with the matter. The world dies with the individual. 251

After all, there are other thrills in other domains: the thrill of pure science is just as pleasurable as the pleasure of pure art. The main thing is to experience that tingle in any department of thought or emotion. We are liable to miss the best of life if we do not know how to tingle, if we do not learn to hoist ourselves just a little higher than we generally are in order to sample the rarest and ripest fruit of art which human thought has to offer. 382

The Real Life of Sebastian Night

I cannot help feeling there is something essentially wrong about love. Friends may quarrel or drift apart, close relations too, but there is not this pang, this pathos, this fatality which clings to love. Friendship never has that doomed look. Why, what is the matter? I have not stopped loving you, but because I cannot go on kissing your dim dear face, we must part, we must part. Why is this so? What is this mysterious exclusiveness? One may have a thousand friends, but only one love-mate. Harems have nothing to do with this matter: I am speaking of dance, not gymnastics. Or can one imagine a tremendous Turk loving every one of his four hundred wives as I love you? For if I say 'two' I have started to count and there is no end to it. There is only one real number: One. And love, apparently, is the best exponent of this singularity. 87

Ada, or Ardor

The rosy remoteness of Terra was soon veiled for her by direful mists. Her disintegration went down a shaft of phases, every one more racking than the last; for the human brain can become the best torture house of all those it has invented, established and used in millions of years, in millions of lands, on millions of howling creatures. 25

All bright kids are depraved. 120

It did not matter, it did not matter. Destroy and forget! But a butterfly in the park, an orchid in a shop window, would revive everything with a dazzling inward shock of despair. 344

Eccentricity is the greatest grief's greatest remedy. 370

To her past admirers Ada attributed all the features and faults we have already been informed of: incompetence of performance, inanity and nonentity, and to her own self nothing beyond easy feminine compassion and such considerations of hygiene and sanity as hurt Van more than would a defiant avowal of passionate betrayal. Ada had made up her mind to transcend his and her sensual sins: the adjective being a near synonym of "senseless" and "soulless;" therefore not represented in the ineffable hereafter that both our young people mutely and shyly believed in. Van endeavored to follow the same line of logic but could not forget. The shame and agony even while reaching heights of happiness he had not known at his brightest hour before his darkest one in the past. 457

It aggrieved him--that complete collapse of the past, the dispersal of its itinerant court and music makers, the logical impossibility to relate the dubious reality of the present to the unquestionable one of remembrance. 265

Eccentric police officers grew enamored with the glamour of incest. Gardeners paraphrased iridescent Persian poems about irrigation and the Four Arrows of Love. Nightwatchment fought insomnia and the fire of the clap with the weapons of Vaniada's Adventures. Herdsmen, spared by thunderbolts on remote hillsides used their huge "moaning horns" as ear trumpets to catch the lilts of Ladore. Virgin chatelaines in marble-floored manors fondled their lone flames fanned by Van's romance. And another century would pass, and the painted word would be retouched by the sill richer brush of time. 433

In 'real' life we are creatures of chance in an absolute void--unless we be artists ourselves. 452

     ...Was he ready to deprive her of normal interests and a normal marriage? Children? Normal amusements?       "Don't forget 'normal adultery,'" remarked Van.      "How much better that would be!" said grim Demon. 470

He discovered her hands (forget that nail-biting business). The pathos of the carpus, the grace of the phalanges demanding helpless genuflections, a mist of brimming tears, agonies of unresolvable adoration. He touched her wrist, like a dying doctor. A quiet madman, he caressed the parallel strokes of the delicate down shading the brunette's forearm. He went back to her knuckles. Fingers, please. 111

During the week following her birthday, Ada's unfortunate fingernails used to stay garnet-stained and after a particularly ecstatic, lost-to-the-world session of scratching, blood literally streamed down her shins--a pity to see, mused her distressed admirer, but at the same time disgracefully fascinating--for we are visitors and investigators in a strange universe, indeed, indeed. 113

I shall now proceed to consider the Past as an accumulation of senses, not as the dissolution of Time implied by immemorial metaphors picturing transition. The "passage of time" is merely a figment of the mind with no objective counterpart, but with easy spatial analogies. It is seen only in rear view, shapes and shades, arrolas and larches silently tumbling away: the perpetual disaster of receding time, eboulements, landslides, mountain roads where rocks are always falling and men always working. 579


Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.

For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it afford me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm. 315

She closed her eyes and opened her mouth, leaning back on the cushion, one felted foot on the floor. The wooden floor slanted, a little steel ball would have rolled into the kitchen. I knew all I wanted to know. I had no intention of torturing my darling. Somewhere beyond Bill's shack an afterwork radio had begun singing of folly and fate, and there she was with her ruined looks and her adult, rope-veined narrow hands and her goose-flesh white arms, and her shallow ears, and her unkempt armpits, there she was (my Lolita!), hopelessly worn at seventeen, with that baby, dreaming already in her of becoming a big shot and retiring around 2020 A.D.--and I looked and looked at her, and knew as clearly as I know I am to die, that I loved her more than anything I had ever seen or imagined on earth, or hoped for anywhere else. She was only the faint violet whiff and dead leaf echo of the nymphet I had rolled myself upon with such cries in the past; an echo on the brink of a russet ravine, with a far wood under a white sky, and brown leaves choking the brook, and one last cricket in the crisp weeds . . . but thank God it was not that echo alone that I worshipped. What I used to pamper among the tangled vines of my heart, mon grand pêché radieux, had dwindled to its essence: sterile and selfish vice, all that I canceled and cursed. You may jeer at me, and threaten to clear the court, but until I am gagged and half-throttled, I will shout my poor truth. I insist the world know how much I loved my Lolita, this Lolita, pale and polluted, and big with another's child, but still gray-eyed, still sooty-lashed, still auburn and almond, still Carmencita, still mine; Changeons de vie, ma Carmen, allons vivre quelque part où nous ne serons jamais sèparès; Ohio? The wilds of Massachusetts? No matter, even if those eyes of hers would fade to myopic fish, and her nipples swell and crack, and her lovely young velvety delicate delta be tainted and torn--even then I would go mad with tenderness at the mere sight of your dear wan face, at the mere sound of your raucous young voice, my Lolita.