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Indeed -- Vladimir Nabokov

She seemed also calmer than before; her self-control had improved. During the previous meetings, and throughout their marital life in Zembla, there had been, on her part, dreadful outbursts of temper. When in the first years of marriage he had wished to cope with those blazes and blasts, trying to make her take a rational view of her misfortune, he had found them very annoying; but gradually he learned to take advantage of them and welcomed them as giving him the opportunity of getting rid of her presence for lengthening periods of time by not calling her back after a sequence of doors had slammed ever more distantly, or by leaving the palace himself for some rural hideout.


In the beginning of their calamitous marriage he had strenuously tried to possess her but to no avail. He informed her he had never made love before (which was perfectly true insofar as the implied object could only mean one thing to her), upon which he was forced to endure the ridicule of having her dutiful purity involuntarily enact the ways of a courtesan with a client too young or too old; he said something to that effect (mainly to relieve the ordeal), and she made an atrocious scene. He farced himself with aphrodisiacs, but the anterior characters of her unfortunate sex kept fatally putting him off. One night when he tried tiger tea, and hopes roles high, he made the mistake of begging her to comply with an expedient which she made the mistake of denouncing as unnatural and disgusting. Finally he told her that an old riding accident was incapacitating him and that a cruise with his pals and a lot of sea bathing would be sure to restore his strength.
She had recently lost both parents and had no real friend to turn to for explanation and advice when the inevitable rumors reached her; there she was too proud to discuss it with her ladies in waiting but she read books, found out all about our manly Zemblan customs, and concealed her naïve distress under a great show of sarcastic sophistication. He congratulated her on her attitude, solemn swearing that he had given up, or at least would give up, the practices of his youth; but everywhere along the road powerful temptations stood at attention.
He succumbed to them from time to time, then every other day, then several times daily---especially during the robust regime of Harfar Baron of Shalksbore, a phenomenally endowed young brute (whose family name, ‘knave’s farm,’ is the most probable derivation of ‘Shakespeare’). Curdy Buff---as Hafar was nicknamed by his admirers---had a huge escort of acrobats and bareback riders, and the whole affair rather got out of hand so that Disa, upon unexpectedly returning from a trip to Sweden, found the Palace transformed into a circus. He again promised, again fell, and despite the utmost discretion was again caught. At last she removed to the Riviera leaving him to amuse himself with a band of Eton-collared, sweet-voiced minions imported from England.

(This is a fragment from Vladimir Nabokov's great novel Pale Fire, addressing the fraught relationship between a certain King Charles (supposedly the narrator in his former life), and his wife, Queen Disa)

 

Comments

  1. Nicely written. Looks like Vladimir's quite talented! :)

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    1. There are really a lot of knowledgeable people out there who believe that he was the greatest writer of the English language of the 20th century (even though he was Russian). You may have heard about LOLITA, which was his biggest success. If you like writing, try Lolita, or Pale Fire (which is very funny), or Prim, or whatever...there are two more fragments on LustSpiel from Nabokov, try the tag "Vladimir Nabokov".

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