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Nabokov Studies 4 (1997) SVETLANA POLSKY (Gothenburg) Vladimir Nabokov's Short Story "Easter Rain" Vladimir Nabokov is known mainly as the author of many novels. However, the short story genre occupies an important position in his work. After first appearing in prose as a short story writer during the early twenties, Nabokov continued to write short stories in Russian throughout the thirties. Most of them were first published in emigrant periodicals; die author later included them in three collections: Vozvrashchenie Chorba. Rasskazy i Stikhi ("The Return of Chorb: Short Stories and Poems"), Soglyadataj ("The Eye") and Vesna ν Fial'te ("Spring in Fialta"). All in all, Nabokov wrote about sixty short stories in Russian. The short story "Paskhal'nyy dozhd'" ("Easter Rain") was printed in the Easter edition of the Berlin weekly Russkoe Ekho (The Russian Echo) on April 12, 1925.» This was the first and only time it was published. It was believed that the issue of the weekly with this short story by Nabokov had been lost (Boyd 231). "Easter Rain" also failed to survive in die archives of the author. After a long search, however, I was able to find it in a 1. "Easter Rain" was the last of four short stories published in this now rare weekly. In 1924 Russkoe Ekho published the short stories "Mest'" ["Revenge"], "Kartofel'nyy ElT ["The Potato Elf], and "Udar kryla" ["Wingstroke"]. 152 Nabokov Studies library in the former East Germany, seventy-one years after its publication. The plot of the story concerns an elderly Swiss woman named Josephine, returning to her native Lausanne after 12 years in Russia, where she served as a governess in a Russian family. Although while living in St. Petersburg Josephine had felt alone, out of place, and misunderstood, she now pines for Russia and looks back on her former life with nostalgia. The story begins on the Orthodox Holy Saturday. Josephine, who wants very much to celebrate Orthodox Easter in accordance with Russian tradition, buys a half dozen eggs, ineptly dyes them, and goes to visit a Russian family of her acquaintance with whom she hopes to celebrate the holiday. She believes she is falling ill, however, since she has a strong chül and a cough. The former governess soon realizes that her acquaintances do not want her company and are impatiently waiting for her to leave. She understands that all her efforts have been in vain: the celebrations simply failed to materialize. Back at home her condition worsens. She becomes delirious and the next morning the doctor diagnoses her with pneumonia. For five days she is on the brink of death, but on the sixth day she unexpectedly regains consciousness. Josephine returns from her delirium to this world in a completely new, joyous, and renewed state. The story ends with the laughter of the heroine, who has just regained consciousness. It is immediately apparent that the story "Easter Rain" is built on a contrast, running through the entire text, between two completely dissimilar worlds. One of these is the everyday reality in which the heroine lives. Lausanne, where Josephine is totally alone and unhappy, is presented as a boring little town tiiat is in no way remarkable, with unattractive houses and narrow streets. The description of Lausanne contains numerous nouns with diminutive and pejorative suffixes. Thus, the sun glides along the "roofs of the sloping stone hovels" [domishki] and Josephine now lives in her "native and alien little town Nabokov's Story "Easter Rain" 153 [gorodok], where it is difficult to breathe, where the houses are built haphazardly, side by side, all over the place along the steep, angular little streets [ulochki]."2 Typically, the sun does not linger in this eternally gloomy town. On the day described in tins story, "it was quiet, springlike cloudy, but by evening a heavy icy wind started blowing from the mountains." When Josephine leaves to visit her acquaintances, it is "deserted, damp, and dark" outside. In the evening she walks home "under the noisy, sobbing trees" and sees that the "sky was deep and troubled, the moon was dim and the storm clouds were like a heap of ruins." When our heroine comes around after five...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9965
Print ISSN
1080-1219
Pages
pp. 151-162
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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