The Gift by Vladimir Nabokov


"As a poet he was, in my opinion, very feeble; he did not create, he merely dabbled in poetry, just as thousands of intelligent youths of his type did; but if they did not meet with some kind of more or less heroic death... they subsequently abandoned literature altogether; and if they exhibited talent in some field it would be in science or administration, or else simply in a well-ordered life."

"Love only what is fanciful and rare; what from the distance of a dream steals through; what knaves condemn to death and fools can't bear."

"'You see,' he explained to Zina, 'I want to keep everything as it were on the very brink of parody.... And there must be on the other hand an abyss of seriousness, and I must make my way along this narrow ridge between my own truth and a caricature of it. And most essentially, there must be a single uninterrupted progression of thought. I must peel my apple in a single strip, without removing the knife."

"When closely–no matter how closely–observing events in nature we must, in the very process of observation, beware of letting our reason–that garrulous dragoman who always runs ahead–prompt us with explanations which then begin imperceptibly to influence the very course of observation and distort it: thus the shadow of the instrument falls upon the truth."

— Vladimir Nabokov–The Gift, 1963
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