‘The Thunderstorm’ by Vladimir Nabokov

The Thunderstorm by Vladimir Nabokov, 1924

The magic trick:

Luxuriating in the authorial freedom afforded by the tried-and-true dream sequence

Early – and maybe slight? – short fiction from Nabokov today. We all should write something so “slight,” I suppose.

The format here is tried and true. A man returns home as a storm rolls in. He then has an intense dream. With that kind of premise, you can write anything you want. The dream framework allows the writer to push things in any possible direction. It will all be perceived and analyzed as symbolic. So it’s essentially a free pass.

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

The selection:

At the corner of an otherwise ordinary West Berlin street, under the canopy of a linden in full bloom, I was enveloped by a fierce fragrance. Masses of mist were ascending in the night sky and, when the last star-filled hollow had been absorbed, the wind, a blind phantom, covering his face with his sleeves, swept low through the deserted street. In lusterless darkness, over the iron shutter of a barbershop, its suspended shield – a gilt shaving basin – began swinging like a pendulum.

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