The breaking of a wave cannot explain the whole sea.
I hope you will love your baby. I hope it will be a boy. That husband of yours, I hope, will always treat you well, because otherwise my specter shall come out of him, like black smoke, like a demented giant, and pull him apart nerve by nerve. ... I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.
There is the first satisfaction of arranging it on a bit of paper; after many, many false tries, false moves, finally you have the sentence you recognize as the one you are looking for.
Literature is invention. Fiction is fiction. To call a story a true story is an insult to both art and truth.
Do not be awed by giant predecessors. Be ill-tempered with their renown. Point out flaws. Frighten interviewers from Time. Appear in Playboy. Sell to the movies.
She might be a little introverted, livelier of movement than of conversation, neither bashful nor forward, with a soul that seemed submerged, but in a radiant moistness. Opalescent on the surface but translucent in her depths.
When a hypothesis enters a scientist's mind, he checks it by calculation and experiment, that is, by the mimicry and the pantomime of truth. It's plausibility infects others, and the hypothesis is accepted as the true explanation for the given phenomenon, until someone finds its faults.
The pleasures of writing correspond exactly to the pleasures of reading.
My mind speaks English, my heart speaks Russian, and my ear prefers French.
What stars, what thought and sadness up above, and what ignorance below.
Imagination without knowledge leads no farther than the back yard of primitive art, the child's scrawl on the fence, and the crank's message in the market place. Art is never simple.
It is a short walk from the hallelujah to the hoot.
At a very early stage of the novel's development I get this urge to collect bits of straw and fluff, and to eat pebbles. Nobody will ever discover how clearly a bird visualizes, or if it visualizes at all, the future nest and the eggs in it.
From far below mounted the clink and tinkle of distant masonry work, and a sudden train passed between gardens, and a heraldic butterfly volant en arrière, sable, a bend gules, traversed the stone parapet, and John Shade took a fresh card.
The only real, genuinely unquestionable thing here was only death itself.
To know that no one before you has seen an organ you are examining, to trace relationships that have occurred to no one before, to immerse yourself in the wondrous crystalline world of the microscope, where silence reigns, circumscribed by its own horizon, a blindingly white arena -- all this is so enticing that I cannot describe it.
Although I could never get used to the constant state of anxiety in which the guilty, the great, and the tenderhearted live, I felt I was doing my best in the way of mimicry.
She thought of the recurrent waves of pain that for some reason or other she and her husband had had to endure; of the invisible giants hurting her boy in some unimaginable fashion; of the incalculable amount of tenderness contained in the world; of the fate of this tenderness, which is either crushed or wasted, or transformed into madness; of neglected children humming to themselves in unswept corners; of beautiful weeds that cannot hide from the farmer.
One is always at home in one's past.
She had spent all her life in feeling miserable; this misery was her native element; its fluctuations, its varying depths, alone save her the impression of moving and living. What bothers me is that a sense of misery, and nothing else, is not enough to make a permanent soul. My enormous and morose Mademoiselle is all right on earth but impossible in eternity.
My answer to your question 'Does the writer have a social responsibility?' is no. You owe me ten cents, sir.
I cannot separate the aesthetic pleasure of seeing a butterfly and the scientific pleasure of knowing what it is.
Beyond the tilled plain, beyond the toy roofs, there would be a slow suffusion of inutile loveliness, a low sun in a platinum haze with a warm, peeled-peace tinge pervading the upper edge of a two-dimensional, dove-gray cloud fusing with the distant amorous mist. There might be a line of spaced trees silhouetted against the horizon, and hot still noons above a wilderness of clover, and Claude Lorrain clouds inscribed remotely into misty azure with only their cumulus part conspicuous against the natural swoon of the background.
Even while writing his book, he had become painfully aware how little he knew his own planet while attempting to piece together another one from jagged bits filched from deranged brains.
Freudism and all it has tainted with its grotesque implications and methods, appear to me to be one of the vilest deceits practiced by people on themselves and on others. I reject it utterly, along with a few other medieval items still adored by the ignorant, the conventional, or the very sick.
All the seven deadly sins are peccadilloes but without three of them, Pride, Lust, and Sloth, poetry might never have been born.
Cynthia had been on friendly terms with an eccentric librarian called Porlock who in the last years of his dusty life had been engaged in examining old books for miraculous misprints such as the substitution of "1" for the second "h" in the word "hither." Contrary to Cynthia, he cared nothing for the thrill of obscure predictions; all he sought was the freak itself, the chance that mimics choice, the flaw that looks like a flower; and Cynthia, a much more perverse amateur of misshapen or illicitly connected words, puns, logogriphs, and so on, had helped the poor crank to pursue a quest that in the light of the example she cited struck me as statistically insane. ("The Vane Sisters").
What was it--through everything terrible, nocturnal, unwieldy--what was that thing? It had been last to move aside, reluctantly yielding to the huge, heavy wagons of sleep, and now it was first to hurry back--so pleasant, so very pleasant--swelling, growing more distinct, suffusing his heart with warmth: Marthe is coming today!
In our hallway, ablaze with welcoming lights, my Lolita peeled off her sweater, shook her gemmed hair, stretched towards me two bare arms, raised one knee:
"Carry me upstairs, please. I feel sort of romantic tonight." It may interest physiologists to learn, at this point, that I have the ability -- a most singular case, I presume -- of shedding torrents of tears throughout the other tempest.
The writer's job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they are up there, throw rocks at them.
Turning one's novel into a movie script is rather like making a series of sketches for a painting that has long ago been finished and framed.
All my stories are webs of style and none seems at first blush to contain much kinetic matter. For me style is matter.
And yet I am happy. Yes, happy. I swear. I swear that I am happy...What does it matter that I am a bit cheap, a bit foul, and that no one appreciates all the remarkable things about me--my fantasy, my erudition, my literary gift…I am happy that I can gaze at myself, for any man is absorbing--yes, really absorbing! ... I am happy--yes, happy!
Perhaps if the year was 1447 instead of 1947 I might have hoodwinked my gentle nature by administering her some classical poison from a hollow agate, some tender philter of death. But in our middle-class nosy era it would not have come off the way it used to in the brocaded palaces of the past. Nowadays you have to be a scientist if you want to be a killer.
So it went on, that obsession and that despair and that nightmarish impossibility to swindle destiny, until a certain first of April, of all dates.
Life is a great surprise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.
For I do not exist: there exist but the thousands of mirrors that reflect me.
For I do not exist: there exist but the thousands of mirrors that reflect me. With every acquaintance I make, the population of phantoms resembling me increases. Somewhere they live, somewhere they multiply. I alone do not exist.
The moral sense in mortals is the duty we have to pay on mortal sense of beauty.
The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.
The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for.
Ink, a Drug.
There is nothing dictators hate so much as that unassailable, eternally elusive, eternally provoking gleam. One of the main reasons why the very gallant Russian poet Gumilev was put to death by Lenin's ruffians thirty odd years ago was that during the whole ordeal, in the prosecutor's dim office, in the torture house, in the winding corridors that led to the truck, in the truck that took him to the place of execution, and at that place itself, full of the shuffling feet of the clumsy and gloomy shooting squad, the poet kept smiling.
After all, in order to live happily, a man must know now and then a few moments of perfect blankness. Yet I was always exposed, always wide-eyed; even in sleep I did not cease to watch over myself, understanding nothing of my existence, growing crazy at the thought of not being able to stop being aware of myself...
But after all we are not children, not illiterate juvenile delinquents, not English public school boys who after a night of homosexual romps have to endure the paradox of reading the Ancients in expurgated versions.
While a few pertinent points have to be marked, the general impression I desire to convey is of a side door crashing open in life's full flight, and a rush of roaring black time drowning with its whipping wind the cry of lone disaster.
I was a daisy fresh girl and look what you've done to me.
Dark pictures, thrones, the stones that pilgrims kiss Poems that take a thousand years to die But ape the immortality of this Red label on a little butterfly .
I remember a cartoon depicting a chimney sweep falling from the roof of a tall building and noticing on the way that a signboard had one word spelled wrong, and wondering in his headlong flight why nobody had thought of correcting it. In a sense, we all are crashing to our death from the top story of our birth to the flat stones of the churchyard and wondering with an immortal Alice in Wonderland at the patterns of the passing wall. This capacity to wonder at trifles--no matter the imminent peril--these asides of the spirit, these footnotes in the volume of life are the highest forms of consciousness, and it is in this childishly speculative state of mind, so different from common sense and its logic, that we know the world to be good.
For the human brain can become the best torture house of all those it has invented, established and used in a millions of years, in millions of lands, on millions of howling creatures.
He was afraid of touching his own wrist. He never attempted to sleep on his left side, even in those dismal hours of the night when the insomniac longs for a third side after trying the two he has.
It is a singular reaction, this sitting still and writing, writing, writing, or ruminating at length, which is much the same, really.
She would try to relieve the pain of love by first roughly rubbing her dry lips against mine; then my darling would draw away with a nervous toss of her hair, and then again come darkly near and let me feed on her open mouth, while with a generosity that was ready to offer her everything, my heart, my throat, my entrails, I gave her to hold in her awkward first the scepter of my passion.
It is strange how a memory will grow into a wax figure, how the cherub grows suspiciously prettier as its frame darkens with age-strange, strange are the mishaps of memory.
Nothing is more exhilarating than philistine vulgarity.
Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as nymphets.
Treading the soil of the moon, palpating its pebbles, tasting the panic and splendor of the event, feeling in the pit of one's stomach the separation from Terra-these form the most romantic sensation an explorer has ever known ... this is the only thing I can say about the matter. The utilitarian results do not interest me.
Time is rhythm: the insect rhythm of a warm humid night, brain ripple, breathing, the drum in my temple--these are our faithful timekeepers; and reason corrects the feverish beat.
All my best words are deserters and do not answer the trumpet call, and the remainder are cripples.
Life is a great sunrise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.
One thing should be established once for all, indefeasibly. I loved, love, and shall love only you. I implore you and love you with everlasting pain and passion, my darling.
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins, my sin, my soul, Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth.
A sense of security, of well-being, of summer warmth pervades my memory. That robust reality makes a ghost of the present. The mirror brims with brightness; a bumblebee has entered the room and bumps against the ceiling. Everything is as it should be, nothing will ever change, nobody will ever die.
I can't tell you how
I knew -- but I did know that I had crossed The border. Everything I loved was lost But no aorta could report regret. A sun of rubber was convulsed and set; And blood-black nothingness began to spin A system of cells interlinked within Cells interlinked within cells interlinked Within one stem. And dreadfully distinct Against the dark, a tall white fountain played.
You have to be an artist and a madman.
You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine (oh, how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs―the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limbs, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate―the little deadly demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power.
A change of environment is the traditional fallacy upon which doomed loves, and lungs, rely.
Toska -- noun ˈtō-skə -- Russian word roughly translated as sadness, melancholia, lugubriousness. "No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.
Satire is a lesson, parody is a game.
And presently I was driving through the drizzle of the dying day, with the windshield wipers in full action but unable to cope with my tears.
To play safe, I prefer to accept only one type of power: the power of art over trash, the triumph of magic over the brute.
Queer, how I misinterpreted the designations of doom.
I was also supposed to quiz my various companions on a number of important matters such as nostalgia, fear of unknown animals, food fantasies, nocturnal emissions, hobbies, choice of radio program, changes in out look and so forth.
When I try to analyze my own cravings, motives, actions and so forth, I surrender to a sort of retrospective imagination which feeds the analytic faculty with boundless alternatives and which causes each visualized route to fork and re-fork without end in the maddeningly complex prospect of my past.
It is hard, I submit, to loathe bloodshed, including war, more than I do, but it is still harder to exceed my loathing of the very nature of totalitarian states in which massacre is only an administrative detail.
Maybe the only thing that hints at a sense of Time is rhythm; not the recurrent beats of the rhythm but the gap between two such beats, the gray gap between black beats: the Tender Interval.
Or is this all but obsolete romantic rot, Cincinnatus?
In my dreams the world would come alive, becoming so captivatingly majestic, free and ethereal, that afterwards it would be oppressive to breathe the dust of this painted life.
Listen: I am ideally happy. My happiness is a kind of challenge. As I wander along the streets and the squares and the paths by the canal, absently sensing the lips of dampness through my worn soles, I carry proudly my ineffable happiness. The centuries will roll by, and schoolboys will yawn over the history of our upheavals; everything will pass, but my happiness , dear, my happiness will remain,in the moist reflection of a street lamp, in the cautious bend of stone steps that descend into the canal's black waters, in the smiles of a dancing couple, in everything with which God so generously surrounds human loneliness.
What surprises you in life? The marvel of consciousness -- that sudden window swinging open on a sunlit landscape amidts the night of non-being.
My heart was a hysterical unreliable organ.
Her lips were like large crimson polyps.
We are most artistically caged.
If I correctly understand the sense of this succinct observation, our poet suggests here that human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece.
By God, I could make myself bring her that economically halved grapefruit, that sugarless breakfast.
Chess problems demand from the composer the same virtues that characterize all worthwhile art: originality, invention, conciseness, harmony, complexity, and splendid insincerity.
I have often noticed that after I had bestowed on the characters of my novels some treasured item of my past, it would pine away in the artificial world where I had so abruptly placed it.
I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip. And the highest enjoyment of timelessness―in a landscape selected at random―is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants. This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern―to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.
Sleep is the most moronic fraternity in the world, with the heaviest dues and the crudest rituals.
We who burrow in filth every day may be forgiven perhaps the one sin that ends all sins.
The tiny madman in his padded cell.
Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.
Whenever I start thinking of my love for a person, I am in the habit of immediately drawing radii from my love -- from my heart, from the tender nucleus of a personal matter- to monstrously remote points of the universe. Something impels me to measure the consciousness of my love against such unimaginable and incalculable things as the behaviour of nebulae (whose very remoteness seems a form of insanity), the dreadful pitfalls of eternity, the unknowledgeable beyond the unknown, the helplessness, the cold, the sickening involutions and interpenetrations of space and time.
I think it is all a matter of love; the more you love a memory the stronger and stranger it becomes.
And the red sun of desire and decision (the two things that create a live world) rose higher and higher, while upon a succession of balconies a succession of libertines, sparkling glass in hand, toasted the bliss of past and future nights.
It was an interesting thing to do. Why did I write any of my books, after all? For the sake of the pleasure, for the sake of the difficulty. I have no social purpose, no moral message; I've no general ideas to exploit, I just like composing riddles with elegant solutions.
I am sufficiently proud of my knowing something to be modest about my not knowing all.
Resemblances are the shadows of differences. Different people see different similarities and similar differences.
I confess, I do not believe in time.
Lolita is famous, not I. I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name.
His life was a constant war with insensate objects that fell apart, or attacked him, or refused to function, or viciously got themselves lost as soon as they entered the sphere of his existence.
And the rest is rust and stardust.
The social or economic structure of the ideal state is of little concern to me. My desires are modest. Portraits of the head of the government should not exceed a postage stamp in size. No torture and no executions. No music, except coming through earphones, or played in theaters. Freedom of speech, freedom of thought, freedom of art.
Let the credulous and the vulgar continue to believe that all mental woes can be cured by a daily application of old Greek myths to their private parts.
I have no ear for music. When I attend a concert, I endeavor gamely to follow the sequence and relationship of sounds but cannot keep it up for more than a few minutes. Visual impressions, reflections of hands in lacquered wood, a diligent bald spot over a fiddle, take over, and soon I am bored beyond measure by the motions of the musicians.
Some people, and I am one of them, hate happy ends. We feel cheated. Harm is the norm.
I could also distinguish the glint of a special puddle (the one Krug had somehow perceived through the layer of his own life), an oblong puddle invariably acquiring the same form after every shower because of the constant spatulate shape of a depression in the ground. Possibly something of the kind may be said to occur in regard to the imprint we leave in the intimate texture of space. Twang. A good night for nothing.
I don't belong to any club or group. I don't fish, cook, dance, endorse books, sign books, co-sign declarations, eat oysters, get drunk, go to church, go to analysts, or take part in demonstrations.
Between the wolf in the tall grass and the wolf in the tall story there is a shimmering go-between. That go-between, that prism, is the art of literature.
Toward nightfall, Khrenov's temperature had risen. The thermometer was warm, alive--the column of mercury climbed high on the little red ladder. For a long time he muttered unintelligibly, kept biting his lips and gently shaking his head. Then he fell asleep. Natasha undressed by a candle's wan flame, and saw her reflection in the murky glass of the window--her pale, thin neck, the dark braid that had fallen across her clavicle. She stood like that, in motionless languor, and suddenly it seemed to her that the room, together with the couch, the table littered with cigarette stubs, the bed on which, with open mouth, a sharp-nosed, sweaty old man slept restlessly--all this started to move, and was now floating, like the deck of a ship, into the black night.
No difference exists between American and European manners. A proletarian from Chicago can be just as Philistine as an English duke.
To a greater or lesser extent there goes on in every person a struggle between two forces: the longing for privacy and the urge to go places: the introversion, interest directed within oneself toward one's own inner life of vigorous thought and fancy; and extroversion, interest directed outward, toward the external world of people and tangible values.
You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.
Beauty plus pity -- that is the closest we can get to a definition of art.
I am looking at him, I am witnessing a unique physiological phenomenon: John Shade perceiving and transforming the world, taking it in and taking it apart, re-combining its elements in the very process of storing them up so as to produce at some unspecified date an organic miracle, a fusion of image and music, a line of verse.
I now warn the reader not to mock me and my mental daze. It is easy for him and me to decipher now a past destiny; but a destiny in the making is, believe me, not one of those honest mystery stories where all you have to do is keep an eye on the clues. In my youth I once read a French detective tale where the clues were actually in italics; but that is not McFate's way--even if one does learn to recognize certain obscure indications.
My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three.
But that mimosa grove -- the haze of stars, the tingle, the flame, the honey-dew, and the ache remained with me, and that little girl with her seaside limbs and ardent tongue haunted me ever since." "this then is my story. i have reread it. it has bits of marrow sticking to it, and blood, and beautiful bright-green flies. at this or that twist of it i feel my slippery self eluding me, gliding into deeper and darker waters than i care to probe.
The clumsiest literal translation is a thousand times more useful than the prettiest paraphrase.
Maud Shade was eighty when a sudden hush
Fell on her life. We saw the angry flush And torsion of paralysis assail Her noble cheek. We moved her to Pinedale, Famed for its sanitarium. There she'd sit In the glassed sun and watch the fly that lit Upon her dress and then upon her wrist. Her mind kept fading in the growing mist. She still could speak. She paused, and groped, and found What seemed at first a serviceable sound, But from adjacent cells impostors took The place of words she needed, and her look Spelt imploration as she fought in vain To reason with the monsters in her brain.
And yet I adore him. I think he's quite crazy, and with no place or occupation in life, and far from happy, and philosophically irresponsible -- and there is absolutely nobody like him.
The evening is the time to praise the day.
I know something. I know something. But expression of it comes so hard !
There is the rare kind of time in which I live -- the pause, the hiatus, when the heart is like a feather..
And as we pushed westward, patches of what the garage-man called "sage brush" appeared, and then the mysterious outlines of table-like hills, and then red bluffs ink-blotted with junipers, and then a mountain range, dun grading into blue, and blue into dream, and the desert would meet us with a steady gale, dust, gray thorn bushes, and hideous bits of tissue paper mimicking pale flowers among the prickles of wind-tortured withered stalks all along the highway; in the middle of which there sometimes stood simple cows, immobilized in a position (tail left, white eyelashes right) cutting across all human rules of traffic.
Where is the happiness, the sunshine, where are those thick skittles of wood which crashed and bounced so nicely, where is my bicycle with the low handlebars and the big gear? It seems there's a law which says that nothing ever vanishes, that matter is indestructible; therefore the chips from my skittles and the spokes of my bicycle still exist somewhere to this day. The pity of it is that I'll never find them again -- never.
She is a great gobbler of books, but reads only trash, memorizing nothing and leaving out the longer descriptions.
All the information I have about myself is from forged documents.
Revelation can be more perilous than Revolution.
There is an old American saying 'He who lives in a glass house should not try to kill two birds with one stone.
Burn pedants in pale fire. Accept no fashions. Be your own fashion. Do not rely on earlier triumphs. Be new at each appearance.
The future is but the obsolete in reverse.
Two interesting characteristics distinguished Leonard Blorenge, Chairman of French Literature and Language; he disliked Literature and he had no French.
I don't want an elderly gentleman from Vienna with an umbrella inflicting his dreams upon me.
In life, as in chess, it is always better to analyze one's motives and intentions.
Let all of life be an unfettered howl. Like the crowd greeting the gladiator. Don't stop to think, don't interrupt the scream, exhale, release life's rapture.
There is nothing in the world that I loathe more than group activity, that communal bath where the hairy and slippery mix in a multiplication of mediocrity.
As far as I can recall, the initial shiver of inspiration for Lolita was somehow prompted by a newspaper story about an ape in the Jardin des Plantes, who, after months of coaxing by a scientist, produced the first drawing ever charcoaled by an animal: this sketch showed the bars of the poor creature's cage.
All of which does not alter the fact that Pnin was on the wrong train.
Do not be angry with the rain; it simply does not know how to fall upwards.
I am surrounded by some sort of wretched specters, not by people. They torment me as can torment only senseless visions, bad dreams, dregs of delirium, the drivel of nightmares and everything that passes down here for real life.
Do what only a true artist can do ... pounce upon the forgotten butterfly of revelation.
You couldn't get more original than Laura. Laura. Yes, she was an original, all right. One of a kind. Did they break her mold or what, pal? Or...or did it self-destruct? Still, Laura. The one and the only. Such a plain name for a unique cutie. But perhaps my acuity is not without its problems. I ruin everything: a stupid story to be tapped out on my tomb's stone. I ruined even Laura. And an original ruin is rare. Just ask the archaeologist, "Egypt, again?" Just ask me, "Laura, again?" and we'll both respond: "Yes, again and again. And again.
In reading, one should notice and fondle details.
Theoretically there is no absolute proof that one's awakening in the morning (the finding oneself again in the saddle of one's personality) is not really a quite unprecedented event, a perfectly original birth.
Running in the wind, in the pollen and dust, a flower in flight.
My principal failing as a writer is the lack of spontaneity; the nuisance of parallel thoughts, second thoughts, third thoughts; inability to express myself properly in any language unless I compose every damned sentence in my bath, in my mind, at my desk.
I sometimes used to ask myself, what on earth did I love her for? Maybe fore the warm hazel iris of her fluffy eyes, or for the natural side-wave of her brown hair, done anyhow, or again for that movement of her plump shoulders. But, probably the truth was that I loved her because she loved me. To her I was the ideal man: brains, pluck. And there was none dressed better. I remember once, when I first put on that new dinner jacket, with the vast trousers, she clapsed her hands, sank down on a chair and murmured: 'Oh, Hermann...." It was ravishment bordering upon something like heavenly woe.
The fame of his likes circulates briskly but soon grows heavy and stale; and as for history it will limit his life story to the dash between two dates.
It is certainly not then-not in dreams- but when one is wide awake, at moments of robust joy and achievement, on the highest terrace of consciousness, that mortality has a chance to peer beyond its own limits, from the mast, from the past and its castle tower. And although nothing much can be seen through the mist, there is somehow the blissful feeling that one is looking in the right direction.
The general impression is that fifteen year-old Dolly remains morbidly uninterested in sexual matters, or to be exact, represses her curiosity in order to save her ignorance and self-dignity.
If he failed the first time he took his driver's licence test, it was mainly because he started an argument with the examiner in an ill-timed effort to prove that nothing could be more humiliating to a rational creature than being required to encourage the development of a base conditional reflex by stopping at a red light when there was not an earthly soul around, heeled or wheeled. He was more circumspect the next time, and passed.
It is quite natural, then, that the solidly unionized professional paraphrast experiences a surge of dull hatred and fear, and in some cases real panic, when confronted with the possibility that a shift in fashion, or the influence of an adventurous publishing house, may suddenly remove from his head the cryptic rosebush he carries or the maculated shield erected between him and the specter of inexorable knowledge. As a result the canned music of rhymed versions is enthusiastically advertised, and accepted, and the sacrifice of textual precision applauded as something rather heroic, whereas only suspicion and bloodhounds await the gaunt, graceless literalist groping around in despair for the obscure word that would satisfy impassioned fidelity and accumulating in the process a wealth of information which only makes the advocates of pretty camouflage tremble or sneer.
Suddenly for no earthly reason I felt immensely sorry for him and longed to say something real, something with wings and a heart, but the birds I wanted settled on my shoulders and head only later when I was alone and not in need of words.
The day, like the previous days, dragged sluggishly by in a kind of insipid idleness, devoid even of that dreamy expectancy which can make idleness so enchanting.
There are some varieties of fiction that I never touch -- mystery stories, for instance, which I abhor, and historical novels. I also detest the so-called "powerful" novel -- full of commonplace obscenities and torrents of dialog.
Good by-aye!" she chanted, my American sweet immortal dead love; for she is dead and immortal if you are reading this.
My mind lay limp in an empty world.
Those Eggheadsareterrible Philistines. A realgood head is not oval but round.
I grew, a happy, healthy child in a bright world of illustrated books, clean sand, orange trees, friendly dogs, sea vistas and smiling faces.
If possible, be Russian. And live in another country. Play chess. Be an active trader between languages. Carry precious metals from one to the other. Remind us of Stravinsky. Know the names of plants and flying creatures. Hunt gauzy wings with snares of gauze. Make science pay tribute. Have a butterfly known by your name.
A philistine is a full-grown person whose interests are of a material and commonplace nature, and whose mentality is formed of the stock ideas and conventional ideals of his or her group and time.
And really, the reason we think of death in celestial terms is that the visible firmament, especially at night (above our blacked-out Paris with the gaunt arches of its Boulevard Exelmans and the ceaseless Alpine gurgle of desolate latrines), is the most adequate and ever-present symbol of that vast silent explosion.
The fire you rubbed left its brand on the most vulnerable, most vicious and tender point of my body. Now I have to pay for your rasping the red rash too strongly, too soon, as charred wood has to pay for burning. When I remain without your caresses, I lose all control of my nerves, nothing exists any more than the ecstasy of friction, the abiding effect of your sting, of your delicious poison.
I discovered in nature the non utilitarian delights that I sought in art. Both were a form of magic, both were a game of intricate enchantment and deception.
A horsefly applied itself, blind fool, to Pnin's bald head, and was stunned by a smack of his meaty palm.
Nostalgia in reverse, the longing for yet another strange land, grew especially strong in spring.
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.
If a violin string could ache, I would be that string.
There are events, strange happenings, that strike
The mind as emblematic. They are like Lost similes adrift without a string. Attached to nothing. Thus that northern king, Whose desperate escape from prison was Brought off successfully only because Some forty of his followers that night Impersonated him and aped his flight .
The spiral is a spiritualized circle. In the spiral form, the circle, uncoiled, has ceased to be vicious; it has been set free.
A first-rate college library with a comfortable campus around it is a fine milieu for a writer. There is, of course, the problem of educating the young. I remember how once, between terms, not at Cornell, a student brought a transistor set with him into the reading room. He managed to state that one, he was playing "classical" music; that two, he was doing it "softly"; and that three, "there were not many readers around in summer." I was there, a one-man multitude.
Remembrance, like Rembrandt, is dark but festive. Remembered ones dress up for the occasion and sit still. Memory is a photo-studio de luxe on an infinite Fifth Power Avenue.
Usually I read several books at a time -- old books, new books, fiction, nonfiction, verse, anything -- and when the bedside heap of a dozen volumes or so has dwindled to two or three, which generally happens by the end of one week, I accumulate another pile.
I have often noticed that we are inclined to endow our friends with the stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader's mind. No matter how many times we reopen 'King Lear,' never shall we find the good king banging his tankard in high revelry, all woes forgotten, at a jolly reunion with all three daughters and their lapdogs. Never will Emma rally, revived by the sympathetic salts in Flaubert's father's timely tear. Whatever evolution this or that popular character has gone through between the book covers, his fate is fixed in our minds, and, similarly, we expect our friends to follow this or that logical and conventional pattern we have fixed for them.
Discussion in class, which means letting twenty young blockheads and two cocky neurotics discuss something that neither their teacher nor they know.
Style and Structure are the essence of a book; great ideas are hogwash.
The kind of poem I produced in those days was hardly anything more than a sign I made of being alive, of passing or having passed, or hoping to pass, through certain intense human emotions. It was a phenomenon of orientation rather than of art, thus comparable to stripes of paint on a roadside rock or to a pillared heap of stones marking a mountain trail.
But then, in a sense, all poetry is positional: to try to express one's position in regard to the universe embraced by consciousness, is an immemorial urge. Tentacles, not wings, are Apollo's natural members. Vivian Bloodmark, a philosophical friend of mine, in later years, used to say that while the scientist sees everything that happens in one point of space, the poet feels everything that happens in one point of time.
From early childhood his mother had taught him that to discuss in public a profound emotional experience-which, in the open air, immediately evanesces and fades, and, oddly, becomes similar to an analogous experience of one's interlocutor-was not only vulgar, but also a sin against sentiment.
We think not in words but in shadows of words.
Most of the dandelions had changed from suns into moons.
I cannot conceive how anybody in his right mind should go to a psychoanalyst.
Literature was not born the day when a boy crying "wolf, wolf" came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels; literature was born on the day when a boy came crying "wolf, wolf" and there was no wolf behind him.
The compensation for a death sentence is the knowledge of the exact hour when one is to die. A great luxury, but one that is well earned.
Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.
A thousand years ago five minutes were
Equal to forty ounces of fine sand. Outstare the stars. Infinite foretime and Infinite aftertime: above your head They close like giant wings, and you are dead.
I would like to spare the time and effort of hack reviewers and, generally, persons who move their lips when reading.
Solitude is the playfield of Satan.
Ideas in modern Russia are machine-cut blocks coming in solid colors; the nuance is outlawed, the interval walled up, the curve grossly stepped.
I was weeping again, drunk on the impossible past.
Genius is finding the invisible link between things.
Dostoevky's lack of taste, his monotonous dealings with persons suffering with pre-Freudian complexes, the way he has of wallowing in the tragic misadventures of human dignity -- all this is difficult to admire.
My God died young. Theolatry i found Degrading, and its premises, unsound. No free man needs God; but was I free?
The contemplation of beauty, whether it be a uniquely tinted sunset, a radiant face, or a work of art, makes us glance back unwittingly at our personal past and juxtapose ourselves and our inner being with the utterly unattainable beauty revealed to us.
Doom is nigh. I am in acute distress, desperately trying to coax sleep, opening my eyes every few seconds to check their faded gleam, and imagining paradise as a place where a sleepless neighbor reads an endless book by the light of an eternal candle.
It's exactly my sense of existing -- a fragment, a wisp of color.
I was the shadow of the waxwing slain By the false azure in the windowpane.
There are few physiques I loathe more than the heavy low-slung pelvis, thick calves and deplorable complexion of the average coed (in whom I see, maybe, the coffin of coarse female flesh within which my nymphets are buried alive).
I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child.
I am sentimental,' she said. ‘I could dissect a koala but not its baby. I like the words damozel, eglantine, elegant. I love when you kiss my elongated white hand.
Nowadays you have to be a scientist if you want to be a killer.
Nowadays you have to be a scientist if you want to be a killer. No, no, I was neither. Ladies and gentleman of the jury, the majority of sex offenders that hanker for some throbbing, sweet-moaning, physical but not necessarily coital, relation with a girl-child, are innocuous, inadequate, passive, timid strangers who merely ask the community to allow them to pursue their practically harmless, so-called aberrant behavior, their little hot wet private acts of sexual deviation without the police and society cracking down upon them. We are not sex fiends! We do not rape as good soldiers do. We are unhappy, mild, dog-eyed gentlemen, sufficiently well integrated to control our urge in the presence of adults, but ready to give years and years of life for one chance to touch a nymphet. Emphatically, no killers are we. Poets never kill.
A toothache will cost a battle, a drizzle cancel an insurrection.
No free man needs a God; but was I free?
How fully I felt nature glued to me And how my childish palate loved the taste Half-fish, half-honey, of that golden paste! My picture book was at an early age The painted parchment papering our cage: Mauve rings around the moon; blood-orange sun; Twinned Iris; and that rare phenomenon The iridule -- when, beautiful and strange, In a bright sky above a mountain range One opal cloudlet in an oval form Reflects the rainbow of a thunderstorm Which in a distant valley has been staged - For we are most artistically caged.
Oh, let me be mawkish for the nonce! I am so tired of being cynical.
We are now ready to tackle Dickens. We are now ready to embrace Dickens. We are now ready to bask in Dickens. ... If it were possible I would like to devote fifty minutes of every class meeting to mute meditation, concentration, and admiration of Dickens. However, my job is to direct and rationalize those meditations, that admiration. All we have to do when reading Bleak House is to relax and let our spines take over. Although we read with our minds, the seat of artistic delight is between the shoulder blades. That little shiver behind is quite certainly the highest form of emotion that humanity has attained when evolving pure art and pure science. Let us worship the spine and its tingle.
Why should I tolerate a perfect stranger at the bedside of my mind?
Events and objects with remote events And vanished objects. Making ornaments Of accidents and possibilities.
I am an actor, living generally on air, but I have always elastic hopes for the future; they may be stretched indefinitely, such hopes, without bursting.
Imagine me; I shall not exist if you do not imagine me; try to discern the doe in me, trembling in the forest of my own iniquity; let's even smile a little. After all, there is no harm in smiling.
A wise reader reads the book of genius not with his heart, not so much with his brain, but with his spine. It is there that occurs the telltale tingle.
Complacency is a state of mind that exists only in retrospective: it has to be shattered before being ascertained.
Poetry involves the mysteries of the irrational perceived through rational words.
In this crazy mirror of terror and art a pseudo-quotation made up of obscure Shakespeareanisms (Chapter Three) somehow produces, despite its lack of literal meaning, the blurred diminutive image of the acrobatic performance that so gloriously supplies the bravura ending for the next chapter.
Genius still means to me, in my Russian fastidiousness and pride of phrase, a unique dazzling gift. The gift of James Joyce, and not the talent of Henry James.
My loathings are simple. stupidity, oppression, crime, cruelty, soft music.
Here lies the sense of literary creation to portray ordinary objects as they will be reflected in kindly mirrors of future times.. To find in objects around us the fragrant tenderness that only posterity will discern.
Nobody strolled and laughed on the sidewalks as relaxing burghers would in sweet, mellow, rotting Europe.
David began to argue, with the whining intonations of German astonishment, ... that everyone did it.
No author has created with less emphasis such pathetic characters as Chekhov has.
I looked and looked at her, and I knew, as clearly as I know that I will die, that I loved her more than anything I had ever seen or imagined on earth. She was only the dead-leaf echo of the nymphet from long ago -- but I loved her, this Lolita, pale and polluted and big with another man's child. She could fade and wither -- I didn't care. I would still go mad with tenderness at the mere sight of her face.
It's a pity one can't imagine what one can't compare to anything. Genius is an African who dreams up snow.
I esteem my colleagues as I do my own self, I esteem them for two things: because they are able to find perfect felicity in specialized knowledge and because they are not apt to commit physical murder.
A work of art has no importance whatever to society. It is only important to the individual.
A work of art has no importance whatever to society. It is only important to the individual, and only the individual reader is important to me. I don't give a damn for the group, the community, the masses, and so forth.
Another tormentor inquired if it was true that I had installed two ping-pong tables in my basement. I asked, was it a crime? No, he said, but why two? Is that a crime? I countered, and they all laughed.
That swimming, sloping, elusive something about the dark-bluish tint of the iris which seemed still to retain the shadows it had absorbed of ancient, fabulous forests where there were more birds than tigers and more fruit than thorns, and where, in some dappled depth, man's mind had been born.
A masterpiece of fiction is an original world and as such is not likely to fit the world of the reader.
As if it were a point of honor--which, indeed, a point of art often is.
A man who has decided upon self-destruction is far removed from mundane affairs, and to sit down and write his will would be, at that moment, an act just as absurd as winding up one's watch, since together with the man, the whole world is destroyed; the last letter is instantly reduced to dust and, with it, all the postmen; and like smoke, vanishes the estate bequeathed to a nonexistent progeny.
Imagination, the supreme delight of the immortal and the immature, should be limited. In order to enjoy life, we should not enjoy it too much.
A certain man once lost a diamond cuff-link in the wide blue sea, and twenty years later, on the exact day, a Friday apparently, he was eating a large fish -- but there was no diamond inside. That's what I like about coincidence.
I became aware of the world's tenderness, the profound beneficence of all that surrounded me, the blissful bond between me and all of creation, and I realized that the joy I sought in you was not only secreted within you, but breathed around me everywhere, in the speeding street sounds, in the hem of a comically lifted skirt, in the metallic yet tender drone of the wind, in the autumn clouds bloated with rain. I realized that the world does not represent a struggle at all, or a predaceous sequence of chance events, but the shimmering bliss, beneficent trepidation, a gift bestowed upon us and unappreciated.
Your voice, through the beelike hum, was remote and anxious. It kept sliding into the distance and vanishing. I spoke to you with tightly shut eyes, and felt like crying. My love for you was the throbbing, welling warmth of tears. That is exactly how I imagined paradise: silence and tears, and the warm silk of your knees. This you could not comprehend.
I could isolate, consciously, little. Everything seemed blurred, yellow-clouded, yielding nothing tangible. Her inept acrostics, maudlin evasions, theopathies -- every recollection formed ripples of mysterious meaning. Everything seemed yellowly blurred, illusive, lost.
I mean, I have the feeling that something in my mind is poisoning everything else.
I happen to be the kind of author who in starting to work on a book has no purpose than to get rid of that book..
He loved her in spite of her unlovableness. Armande had many trying, thought not necessarily rare, traits, all of which he accepted as absurd clues in a clever puzzle.
All great novels are great fairy tales.
My only grudge against nature was that I could not turn my Lolita inside out and apply voracious lips to her young matrix, her unknown heart, her nacreous liver, the sea-grapes of her lungs, her comely twin kidneys.
His wings were failing, but he refused to fall without a struggle.
The lost glove is happy.
Cannot it actually be that in a wildly literal sense, unacceptable to one's reason, he meant disappearing in his art, dissolving in his verse, thus leaving of himself, of his nebulous person, nothing but verse?
Man exists only insofar as he is separated from his surroundings. The cranium is a space-traveler's helmet. Stay inside or you perish.
It was something quite special, that feeling: an oppressive, hideous constraint as if I were sitting with the small ghost of somebody I had just killed.
You must be careful. There are things that should never be given up. You must persevere.
It is nothing but a kind of a microcosmos of communism -- all that psychiatry', rumbled Pnin ... 'Why not leave their private sorrow to people? Is sorrow not, one asks, the only thing in the world people really possess?