‘Breaking The News’ by Vladimir Nabokov

Breaking The News by Vladimir Nabokov, 1935

The magic trick:

Establishing a heartbreaking premise immediately, and making the reader feel the burden

The premise, in all its broken heartedness, is established in the opening paragraph.

Friends – and by proxy, us the readers – know that a woman’s son has died in Paris. The woman does not yet know.

The friends feel this tragic burden, and, again by proxy, so does the reader.

It’s a tough story to read.

And that’s quite a trick on Nabokov’s part.

The selection:

Eugenia Isakovna Mints was an elderly émigré widow, who always wore black. Her only son had died on the previous day. She had not yet been told.

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