Parents of an "incurably deranged" son purchase an "innocent trifle" to take to their son in the "sanitarium" only to arrive to find out that he has again attempted suicide. They are turned away because their visit "might disturb him."
In this 3rd person POV story, it is all telling or narration. We do not see the boy in the hospital. A distance is maintained but instead we see people who must somehow move about in the world. They are still alive and attempt to understand and find the smallest pleasures. It is a really great story about just putting one foot in front of the other no matter how horrible the world is.
After this story, Nabokov published several dozen more stories at the New Yorker. And, evidently, the story was also sometimes titled, "Signs and Symbols."
FAVORITE SENTENCE: "Still reading, he ate the victuals that needed no teeth."
Wikipedia listing of Nabokov's short stories
Wikipedia article about Nabokov
review by William Litton of "Symbols and Signs"
Mary Gaitskill reads "Symbols and Signs." It is a different version than the one I read.
28 November, 2009
Read Vladimir Nabokov's "Natasha" published in the June 9 & 16, 2008 issue of The New Yorker. It was written about 1924 and is in the 3rd person p.o.v. limited shifting. Alexey Ivanych Khrenov, father of Natasha, is dying and the neighbor Baron Wolfe tells imaginative stories of travel and adventure to Natasha and Khrenov.