Nabokov’s care for things

What there is, eloquently if scarcely, is a series of adumbrations of Nabokov’s care for neglected things, people and places. Like a half-built house that creates the impression of a ruin, abandoned by the life that has not yet arrived; or ‘a marvellous sunset, addressed to God knows who and by and large utterly lost’; or ‘the material melancholy’ of the custom house in Dunkirk; or ‘the gaiety of the shadows’ in South Carolina. He even has a theory about such care, developed in relation to his poem ‘The Room’, which started out as a story. The story is about, among other things, ‘how we unfairly insult things with our inattentiveness, about how touching are the moulded ceiling ornaments, which we never look at, which we never notice’.

Michael Wood, ‘Dear Poochums’, review of Letters to Véra by Vladimir Nabokov, edited and translated by Olga Voronina and Brian Boyd.

London Review of Books Vol. 36 No. 20 (23 October 2014), p. 8

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