Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Nabokov was one of the great twentieth century masters of structure and style, in both his Russian and his English works. “The Return of Chorb” is a good example. Nabokov employs an omniscient narrator who focuses on the Kellers in the opening and closing sections (both set in the present) and on Chorb in the longer middle section, which alternates between the present of Chorb’s return and the past of his memories. Events in the present trigger memories of related scenes from the past. The mention of the wife’s “illness” evokes Chorb’s reminiscence of her death and his slow return journey, the picture in the grubby hotel room, the lovers’ wedding and flight to the hotel, and Chorb’s walk, his wedding-eve stroll with his fiancé. The striking thing about Nabokov’s narrative technique is that it proceeds in two directions at once. The present-tense narration, beginning with Chorb’s return, moves in the normal forward direction; the past-tense narration stages Chorb’s tragedy in reverse order: the death and return trip, the wedding night, the wedding-eve stroll. The two time-lines proceed in opposite directions and are linked by the web of memories just as in the image of the two telegraph lines spanned by the iridescent spiderweb.

Nabokov’s development of the characters is also noteworthy. The narrator’s contempt for the unimaginative, bourgeois Kellers is evident. Both are stout, and Herr Keller’s face is “simian.” Their...

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The Return of Chorb Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Alexandrov, Vladimir E. Nabokov’s Otherworld. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Vladimir Nabokov. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.

Boyd, Brian. Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990.

Boyd, Brian. Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1991.

Field, Andrew. VN: The Life and Art of Vladimir Nabokov. New York: Crown, 1986.

Foster, John Burt. Nabokov’s Art of Memory and European Modernism. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Grayson, Jane. Vladimir Nabokov. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 2002.

Grayson, Jane, Arnold B. McMillin, and Priscilla Meyer, eds. Nabokov’s World: Reading Nabokov. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002.

Larmour, Davbid. H. J., ed. Discourse and Ideology in Nabokov’s Prose. New York: Routledge, 2002.

Nicol, Charles, and Gennady Barabtarlo, eds. A Small Alpine Form: Studies in Nabokov’s Short Fiction. New York: Garland, 1993.

Parker, Stephen Jan. Understanding Vladimir Nabokov. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1987.

Pifer, Ellen. Nabokov and the Novel. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1980.

Pifer, Ellen, ed. Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita”: A Casebook. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Schiff, Stacy. Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov): Portrait of a Marriage. New York: Random House, 1999.

Shapiro, Gavriel, ed. Nabokov at Cornell. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2003.

Shrayer, Maxim D. The World of Nabokov’s Stories. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999.

Toker, Leona. Nabokov: The Mystery of Literary Structures. Ithaca, N.Y: Cornell University Press, 1989.