Pnin Quotes

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Pnin Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov
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Pnin Quotes Showing 1-30 of 55
“Some people—and I am one of them—hate happy ends. We feel cheated. Harm is the norm. Doom should not jam. The avalanche stopping in its tracks a few feet above the cowering village behaves not only unnaturally but unethically.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“He was afraid of touching his own wrist. He never attempted to sleep on his left side, even in those dismal hours of the night when the insomniac longs for a third side after trying the two he has.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“There is an old American saying 'He who lives in a glass house should not try to kill two birds with one stone.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
tags: humor
“I do not know if it has ever been noted before that one of the main characteristics of life is discreteness. Unless a film of flesh envelopes us, we die. Man exists only insofar as he is separated from his surroundings. The cranium is a space-traveler's helmet. Stay inside or you perish. Death is divestment, death is communion. It may be wonderful to mix with the landscape, but to do so is the end of the tender ego.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“...If he failed the first time he took his driver's licence test, it was mainly because he started an argument with the examiner in an ill-timed effort to prove that nothing could be more humiliating to a rational creature than being required to encourage the development of a base conditional reflex by stopping at a red light when there was not an earthly soul around, heeled or wheeled. He was more circumspect the next time, and passed...”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“The accumulation of consecutive rooms in his memory now resembled those displays of grouped elbow chairs on show, and beds, and lamps, and inglebooks which, ignoring all space-time distinctions, commingle in the soft light of a furniture store beyond which it snows, and the dusk deepens, and nobody really loves anybody.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“It is nothing but a kind of microcosmos of communism—all that psychiatry,' rumbled Pnin, in his answer to Chateau. 'Why not leave their private sorrows to people? Is sorrow not, one asks, the only thing in the world people really possess?”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“Unless a film of flesh envelops us, we die. Man exists only insofar as he is separated from his surroundings. The cranium is a space-traveler's helmet. Stay inside or you perish. Death is divestment, death is communion.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“We sat and drank, each with a separate past locked up in him, and fate's alarm clocks set at unrelated futures -- when, at last, a wrist was cocked, and eyes of consorts met.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“Why not leave their private sorrows to people? Is sorrow not, one asks, the only thing in the world people really possess?”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“All three of them stood for a moment gazing at the stars.
''And all these are worlds,'' said Hagen.
''Or else,'' said Clements with a yawn, ''a frightful mess. I suspect it is really a fluorescent corpse, and we are inside it.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“His life was a constant war with insensate objects that fell apart, or attacked him, or refused to function, or viciously got themselves lost as soon as they entered the sphere of his existence.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“To hold her, to keep her -- just as she was -- with her cruelty, with her vulgarity, with her blinding blue eyes, with her miserable poetry, with her fat feet, with her impure, dry, sordid, infantile soul. All of a sudden he thought: If people are reunited in Heaven (I don’t believe it, but suppose), then how shall I stop it from creeping upon me, that shriveled, helpless, lame thing, her soul? But this is the earth, and I am, curiously enough, alive, and there is something in me and in life ---”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“…two lumpy old ladies in semitransparent raincoats, like potatoes in cellophane…”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“What chatty Madam Shpolyanski mentioned had conjured up Mira's image with unusual force. This was disturbing. Only in the detachment of an incurable complaint, in the sanity of near death, could one cope with this for a moment. In order to exist rationally, Pnin had taught himself...never to remember Mira Belochkin - not because...the evocation of a youthful love affair, banal and brief, threatened his peace of mind...but because, if one were quite sincere with oneself, no conscience, and hence no consciousness, could be expected to subsist in a world where such things as Mira's death were possible. One had to forget - because one could not live with the thought that this graceful, fragile, tender young woman with those eyes, that smile, those gardens and snows in the background, had been brought in a cattle car and killed by an injection of phenol into the heart, into the gentle heart one had heard beating under one's lips in the dusk of the past.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“A warm flow of pain was gradually replacing the ice and wood of the anaesthetic in his thawing, still half-dead, abominably martyred mouth. After that, during a few days he was in mourning for an intimate part of himself. It surprised him to realize how fond he had been of his teeth. His tongue, a fat sleek seal, used to flop and slide so happily among the familiar rocks, checking the contours of a battered but still secure kingdom, plunging from cave to cove, climbing this jag, nuzzling that notch, finding a shred of sweet seaweed in the same old cleft; but now not a landmark remained, and all there existed was a great dark wound, a terra incognita of gums which dread and disgust forbade one to investigate. And when the plates were thrust in, it was like a poor fossil skull being fitted with the grinning jaws of a perfect stranger.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“When, on a Sunday evening in May 1876, Anna throws herself under the freight train, she has existed more than four years since the beginning of the novel, but in the case of the Lyovins, during the same period, 1872 to 1876, hardly three years have elapsed. It is the best example of relativity in literature that is known to me.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“While endowed with the morose temper of genius, he [Lakes, Arts Professor] lacked originality and was aware of that lack; his own paintings always seemed beautifully clever imitations, although one could never quite tell whose manner he mimicked. His profound knowledge of innumerable techniques, his indifference to 'schools' and 'trends', his detestation of quacks, his conviction that there was no difference whatever between a genteel aquarelle of yesterday and, say, conventional neoplasticism or banal non-objectivism of today, and that nothing but individual talent mattered--these views made of him an unusual teacher. St Bart's was not particularly pleased either with Lake's methods or with their results, but kept him on because it was fashionable to have at least one distinguished freak on the staff. Among the many exhilarating things Lake taught was that the order of the solar spectrum is not a closed
circle but a spiral of tints from cadmium red and oranges through a strontian yellow and a pale paradisal green to cobalt blues and violets, at which point the sequence does not grade into red again but passes into another spiral, which starts with a kind of lavender grey and goes on to Cinderella shades transcending human perception. He taught that there is no such thing as the Ashcan School or the Cache Cache School or the Cancan School. That the work of art created with string, stamps, a Leftist newspaper, and the droppings of doves is based on a series of dreary platitudes. That there is nothing more banal and more bourgeois than paranoia. That Dali is really Norman Rockwell's twin brother kidnapped by gipsies in babyhood. That Van Gogh is second-rate and Picasso supreme, despite his commercial foibles; and that if Degas could immortalize a calèche, why could not Victor Wind do the same to a motor car?”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“Because of a streak of dreaminess and a gentle abstraction in his nature, Victor in any queue was always at its very end. He had long since grown used to this handicap, as one grows used to weak sight or a limp.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“If his Russian was music, his English was murder.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“Geniusz to brak przystosowania.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“No jewels, save my eyes, do I own, but I have a rose which is even softer than my rosy lips. And a quiet youth said: 'There is nothing softer than your heart.' And I lowered my gaze...”

I wrote back telling Liza that her poems were bad and she ought to stop composing. Sometime later I saw her in another cafe, sitting at a long table, abloom and ablaze among a dozen young Russian poets. She kept her sapphire glance on me with a mocking and mysterious persistence.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“Some people-and I am one of them-hate happy ends. We feel cheated. Harm is the norm. Doom should not jam.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“Vài người – và tôi là một trong số họ – ghét những cái kết vui. Chúng tôi thấy bị lừa. Tổn thương là bình thường. Nghiệp chướng bất khả cưỡng. Trận tuyết lở dừng giữa đường chỉ vài bước trên ngôi làng co rúm đã hành xử không chỉ phi luân mà còn vô đạo.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“My patient was one of those singular and unfortunate people who regard their heart (“a hollow, muscular organ,” according to the gruesome definition in Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, which Pnin’s orphaned bag contained) with a queasy dread, a nervous repulsion, a sick hate, as if it were some strong slimy untouchable monster that one had to be parasitized with, alas.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“The bowl that emerged was one of those gifts whose first impact produces in the recipient's mind a colored image, a blazoned blur, reflecting with such emblematic force the sweet nature of the donor that the tangible attributes of the thing are dissolved, as it were, in this pure inner blaze, but suddenly and forever leap into brilliant being when praised by an outsider to whom the true glory of the object is unknown.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“All of which does not alter the fact that Pnin was on the wrong train.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“the satisfaction of a special Pninian craving.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“Both Erica and Liza Wind were morbidly concerned with heredity, and instead of delighting in Victor's artistic genius, they used to worry gloomily about its genetic cause.”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin
“(...) after an early dinner at The Egg and We, a recently inaugurated and not very successful little restaurant which Pnin frequented from sheer sympathy with failure (...)”
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin

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