This book contains four short stories and is a handy Nabokov taster ... it's a shame then, that only the starter in this meal is worthwhile. The first piece, titled 'An Affair of Honor', is a cracking story about a man who comes home to find that his friend has cheated on him, and in the heat of the moment he challenges his the guy to a duel. The challenge is an odd one as it is made at a time when honor carries less import than it once did, and when duelling is an illegal relic of a bygone era. The protagonist realises the error of his ways, and also that he is no match for his ex-friend. The man's life quickly unravels before the reader, as he becomes a trembling ball of despair and cowardice.
When I started writing this post, I started sensing that I may have read Nabokov previously. Lo and behold, a quick blog search later and I discover that I did indeed read a short story by the author in 2013. And I absolutely hated it. My review ended with 'Avoid at all costs. Never again Nabokov, never ever again.' An Affair of Honor was his saving grace the second time around, but all in all, I think this is one dude who is seriously overrated.
'In elderly people stranded not only outside the border of their country but outside that of their own lives, nostalgia evolves into an extraordinarily complex organ, which functions continuously, and its secretions compensates for all that has been lost; or else it becomes a fatal tumor on the soul that make it painful to breathe, sleep and associate with carefree foreigners.'
'He reflected that he had been condemned to live on the outskirts of life, that it had always been thus and always would be, and that, therefore, if death did not present him with an exit into true reality, he would simply never come to know life.'