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Nabokov Studies 4 (1997) VLADIMIR MYLNIKOV (China) The Nature of Textual Binarity: Nabokov's "Christmas"! The artistic space of Nabokov's 1924 story, "Christmas" [Rozhdestvo] displays a clearly expressed binary structure that is manifested on every level of the text: the thematic, compositional , and the lexico-semantic. This article offers an analysis of the phenomenon. Temporal correlations The story's binary structure is set forth in Nabokov's title. "Rozhdestvo" [Christmas], both thematically and etymologically , may be decoded as a positively marked event. The ontological status of any holiday is normally marked with a plus sign since such events are set apart from the plane of the everyday , the ordinary, the routine, and, as such, constitute an opposition to the latter. Thus, the conelation "time/event," i.e., "when something happens" and "what happens," must find positive expression. However, the story's main action (the death of the protagonist's son) is patently a negative event whose perception is greatly intensified due to the "time" of what is taking 1. Translator's note. Although "Rozhdestvo" is the Russian word for "Christmas," it derives from the verbal root meaning "to be born," a fact of central significance to the story. 164 Nabokov Studies place. In other words, the reader feels all the more keenly the fact of death against the background of a holiday symbolizing birth, and, in a certain sense, nullifies the holiday's essence. It is not by chance that the protagonist, Sleptsov, forgets that the events are taking place at Christmas. Thus the antimony "birth/death," also a certain form of binarism, is introduced by the author as a presupposition. At the same time, the subsequent scheme of events and plot development require the inversion "death/birth." We have remarked that such concepts as "unusualness" [neobychainost', or Shklovsky's ostranenie] constitute positively marked time (the holiday). That the protagonist experiences his son's death on Christmas Eve affirms that the event condition is, in principle, observed, albeit negatively expressed. Further, the theme of "the unusualness of what has taken place" develops in the plane of "die unusualness of what is taking place." This is most apparent in the story's first part where "the unusual" is expressed in the following ways: 1) The protagonist sets out on Christmas Eve (in winter) from the village to his country house, i.e., his summer residence; 2) He stays not in the manor, but in one wing; 3) He sits down on a "low plushcovered chair which he never remembered using before," and, 4) He sits down in "an unlived-in corner." The unusualness of his position (uncomfortable) and condition (distressed) is emphasized in the following comparison: "The master sat in his corner, on that plush chair, as in a doctor 's waiting room." Even Sleptsov's servant, who had shaved off his mustache, strikes him as unusual. In short, everything seems somehow "off." Lastly, one must take into account that "Christmas" is the only story in the collection The Return of Chorb that takes place in Russia. The other stories take place in Western Europe. The theme of "the out of the ordinary" [neobychnost'] is polyphonically set forth in three artistic registers: time (when), space (where), and mode of action (how). In other words, this Nabokov's "Christmas" 165 triply expressed phenomenon of "singularity" foreshadows the nature of the miracle at the story's end. Spatial correlations The text throws two contrasting spaces into relief: "a closed world and an open world." These are represented on the compositional level by the events taking place within the country house, i.e., in the wing and the house, and outside it in the park. Whenever the protagonist changes location, i.e., is in transition from one place to another, his emotional state also sharply changes and, conespondingly, so does his entire apperception of the external world. Such recoding is conditioned by the fixed semantic attributes of the spaces in question. Their nature is revealed precisely by the changes in the protagonist's location. The breakdown of the text's space into a closed world and an open one is also motivated, in our view, by Nabokov's master theme—"the other world...