Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Signs and Symbols (Stories of Vladimir Nabokov)” as Want to Read:
Signs and Symbols (Stories of Vladimir Nabokov)
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

Signs and Symbols (Stories of Vladimir Nabokov)

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  443 ratings  ·  39 reviews
Collection, 16 pages
Published (first published May 15th 1948)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Signs and Symbols, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Signs and Symbols

The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan PoeLove, Life and Everything Else by Xunaira J.Cyborg Spell Shop by James ChalkPapap's Teeth by Danielle DeVorThe Cask of Amontillado by Edgar Allan Poe
Single Short Story
56th out of 269 books — 177 voters
The Lottery by Shirley JacksonCutting Right to the Chase Vol.2, by Stefania MattanaThe Complete Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan PoeGalactic Energies by Luca  RossiOrchid by Shane K.P. O'Neill
Best Short Stories of All Time
99th out of 135 books — 163 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 891)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
samar salman
From the beginning of Nabokov story, it is a story of signs and symbols. The conflict is not just between the parents and their boy, but also between them and the world. They all live in reality, but at the same time they are separated mentally or physically. Their boy is a symbol of a severe illness, that makes him believe that every object in this world is conspiring against him. Which makes us feel, in a way, the emotional conflict of any jewish man who suffered from the Nazi army. considerin ...more
Katerina
(Я читала этот рассказ для себя, препарировала на слова для студентов, а обозревала для литклуба, в общем, пусть рецензия будет и тут)

Shе thought of the recurrent waves of pain that for some reason or other she and her husband had had to endure; of the in visible giants hurting her boy in some unimaginable fashion; of the incalculable amount of tenderness contained in the world; of the fate of this tenderness, which is either crushed or wasted, or transformed into madness; of neglected children
...more
Rick
An elderly couple tries to visit their deranged son in a sanatorium on his birthday. They are informed that he attempted to take his life and they cannot see him now. After their return home, the husband announces his decision to take him out of the sanatorium. The story concludes with mysterious telephone calls. The first two apparently misdialed calls are from a girl asking for "Charlie"; the story ends when the phone rings for the third time.

In the course of the story the reader learns many d
...more
Anna-maria Frastali
From the title of this short story we can understand that it has to do with signs and symbols. This is a world of metaphor, filled with symbols. Also, the question of real insanity follows the whole text.

An old couple has a son enclosed in a sanitorium. He is supposed to be mentally ill- Referential Mania Nabokov names it. Why? He is trapped in a world full of symbols: the clouds have information regarding him, so do the pebbles or stains. He lives in a hostile world that everything suggests a l
...more
Sara Alaee
How I admire New Yorker and its works!
This was an amazing story.
Justine
3 Stars out of 5 Stars

**UPDATE** After re-visiting the story, I do believe it was a brilliant touch to elude to signs and symbols all over the story - just as the son sees signs and symbols everywhere, you're looking for them too. And, after entertaining many theories and reviews published on this story, I do have more respect and a better understanding (changing my original 1.75 Star rating to a 3 Star rating). One of my favorite hidden messages in the book, found online after reading, is the c
...more
Sophia Case-Gabbard
There stories are so thrilling that after reading a few pages, I have to get up and pace the room. Never mind dorsal hairs, heart pounding prose. Prose that burns you up. Find myself returning year after year, like a moth.

“My advice to a budding literary critic would be as follows. Learn to distinguish banality. Remember that mediocrity thrives on "ideas." Beware of the modish message. Ask yourself if the symbol you have detected is not your own
footprint. Ignore allegories. By all means place th
...more
Hind
It is the truth to say that although i really felt the deep sorrow and helplessness of the old parents , dealing with such misfortune .
Yet i couldn't comprehend the story very well , nothing in particular pointed that to me , but it was a consistent feeling that something is missing , a lot of details which was mentioned i looked over it , i didn't connect it by any mean to each other , nor did i attempt to think about any of that .
Although it is my first reading for this author Something felt w
...more
Rachel Jackson
I'm always amazed with Vladimir Nabokov's ability to included miniature versions of his own life in all of his writing, in small details here and there that might only stand out if you know his personal life. Reading "Signs and Symbols" was bittersweet because Nabokov includes several details of his own life, particularly about his emigration to and from Europe and — the saddest of all — the relative who died at the hands of the Germans.

As usual, Nabokov always writes with a theme of unreliable
...more
Mai
Their signs and symbols are the subway that loses “its life current,” the report that their son has attempted suicide, a dying bird in a puddle, the girl crying on the shoulder of a woman, the photograph of the relative killed by the Nazis. Do all of these foreshadow bad news at the end of the story—namely that the third telephone call will report that the son has succeeded in killing himself?
That outcome is a possibility. It could be the girl telephoning for Charlie, the third time.

Well, I gue
...more
Reebs
Original text: http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1948...

My first dose of Nabokov's work, and I wasn't disappointed. The title might reveal what the focus is, but it most certainly doesn't ruin the story.

I admire his writing style. He doesn't beat around the bush with unnecessarily long and descriptive phrases; there is instead a wonderful eloquence and a kind of resigned bluntness simultaneously present in his writing. It's a simple yet imaginative piece to read that'll stick with you in the day
...more
Dani (The Pluviophile Reader)
This story really struck me for a variety of personal reasons.

The story elaborates on the conflict of supporting and loving someone who is mentally ill and the lack of control that you often have to help them. You never really feel like you know what's best for your loved one and ultimately they are the only ones that can decide to improve or change. If they choose not to, then you are at a complete loss, which is the case for the unfortunate parents in this story.

The old couple are trying to
...more
Rainey
*3.75 stars*

Nabokov writes with such flourish and skill that is it easy to forgive that no answer to the questions posed in "Signs and Symbols" are given. Even so, the story itself is an answer- a problem to be solved. After a quick reread, I began to wonder if our main characters exist an all. Are they simply a symptom of the unnamed son's "Referential Mania?"
Atoofa
May 11, 2014 Atoofa added it
Fascinating madness, Sombre tone, Threatening signs, bizarre illness, living Worlds apart in the same world, Ominous symbols, alliteration, metaphors, onomatopoeia, oxymoron. Perfect combination at one place. I would say it is the awesome short story ! #Well_Written
Lnaz Izd
"The silhouettes of his blood corpuscles, magnified a million times, flit over vast plains; and still farther, great mountains of unbearable solidity and height sum up in terms of granite and groaning firs the ultimate truth of his being."
Andrew
Trite, boring, unrealistic, even when you overlook the supernatural element. They sincerely believe the world is ending yet they still wash the dishes? Bradbury is really phoning it in here.
Hashim Qureshi
A story about referential mania whose signs and symbols induce referential mania in the reader. What did the the 3rd phone call mean? Vladamir Nabokov is unparalleled, an absolute master.
Chris Mitchell
Beautifully written, but, to me, it lacked a "punch." I haven't read much Nabakov, but I can certainly imagine that he has an incredible repertoire of work that awaits me.
Palak
only read Signs and Symbols; I was definitely itching for more after the story ended, and think I need to give it a re-read
Yazan Azzam
You don't realise how great this story is until you read
this :http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/...
Mallika Soni
Beautiful. Favourite. Must read.
Yasmin
3,5 stars out of 5.
Vanessa
*short story*
Lnaz Izd
" Everything is a cipher and of everything he is the theme"
Katie
"... she presented a naked white countenance to the faultfinding light of spring."
dw
Online text: http://www.newyorker.com/archive/1948...

Short enough to read more than once and with enough layers to discover something new each time. But if you like clear-cut conclusions with all loose ends neatly tied, this short story may not be to your liking. Beautifully written, thought-provoking -- but ultimately unsatisfying.
Neeraj
Such a simple and touching story. The ending is very beautiful. You feel its such a simple story that anyone could pen it but then simplicity is such a hard thing after all.
Jessica
This is a story I will go back to throughout my life. Dense and, true to its title, packed with symbolism. Read and reread and then spend some time with analyses to understand how truely intricate this story is.
Kasper
Nabokov's eloquence is a thing of beauty.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 29 30 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Last Night of the World
  • Man from the South
  • Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years
  • The Depressed Person
  • Lady Macbeth De Mtsensk (Clasica)
  • The Use of Force
  • The End of the Party
  • The Circular Ruins
  • Happy Endings
  • The Emperor's Three Questions
  • The Collected Short Stories of Maxim Gorky
  • A Gentle Spirit: A Fantastic Story
  • Fog Magic
  • John Bull's Other Island
  • Leave it to Jeeves
  • Red Spikes
  • The Conversion of the Jews
  • Continuity of Parks [Short story]
5152
Russian: Владимир Владимирович Набоков

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, also known by the pen name Vladimir Sirin, was a Russian-American novelist. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist. He also made significant contributions to lepidoptery and had an interest in chess problems.

Nabokov's Lolita (1955) is frequently cit
...more
More about Vladimir Nabokov...
Lolita Pale Fire Pnin Invitation to a Beheading Speak, Memory

Share This Book

“What he had really wanted to do was to tear a hole in his world and escape.” 4 likes
“This, and much more, she accepted - for after all living did mean accepting
the loss of one joy after another, not even joys in her case - mere
possibilities of improvement. She thought of the endless waves of pain
that for some reason or other she and her husband had to endure; of the
invisible giants hurting her boy in some unimaginable fashion; of the
incalculable amount of tenderness contained in the world; of the fate of
this tenderness, which is either crushed, or wasted, or transformed into
madness; of neglected children humming to themselves in unswept corners;
of beautiful weeds that cannot hide from the farmer and helplessly have to
watch the shadow of his simian stoop leave mangled flowers in its wake, as
the monstrous darkness approaches.”
2 likes
More quotes…