The Vanished Cane and the Revised Trick: A Solution for Nabokov's "Lips to Lips"

Although Nabokov's short story "Lips to Lips" is usually considered to be an implied satire of the events and personalities in the colony of Russian émigré writers in Berlin (as Nabokov himself suggests in the commentary to the English version), by keeping in mind literary tricks of the sort Nabokov used in "The Vane Sisters" and by comparing the Russian version of "Lips to Lips" with its English version, this paper discloses a certain trick in the story suggestive of a rather different reading. When Nabokov translated the story into English, he revised the trick because the original Russian-language trick is based on a grammatical fact that resists translation into English. The approach taken in this paper reveals the advantages of comparing the Russian and English versions of Nabokov's works.