Long overlooked in Nabokov's oeuvre, the 1933 short story "The Admiralty Spire" is a marvel of literary engineering, a triumph, as well as a trumping, of Formalist poetics. Navigating by the theoretical polestars of suzhet and fabula, this article explores the story's rhetorical surface and plumbs its dramatic depths. Within the confines of the epistolary mode, "Spire"'s writer/narrator adopts an unusually animated, and in many ways manipulative, method of narration, systematically juxtaposing competing discursive layers: a scheme that resonates with additional stylistic devices in the text and subtly contributes to the story's affective power. The substance of the narrator's tale—the peculiar chronicle of a romance that expired just as the Revolution sparked— is equally provocative in its thematic articulation. Through the complexities of its character portraits, the nuances of its narrative details, and the cumulative weight of its allusions, the text suggests that the narrator's lost love is a figment of his inflamed imagination: a crisis of authorial reliability that, like the story's intricate design, evokes comparisons with the most prominent works in the Nabokovian pantheon. Far from being discrete concerns, rhetorical mode and narrative matter converge within the story, collapsing the Formalist dichotomy en route to a more expansive transcendence.


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pp. 159-190
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