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30+ quotes from Invitation to a Beheading by Vladimir Nabokov

Quotes from Invitation to a Beheading

Vladimir Nabokov ·  223 pages

Rating: (10.8K votes)


“...in my dreams the world would come alive, becoming so captivatingly majestic, free and ethereal, that afterwards it would be oppressive to breathe the dust of this painted life.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“The thought, when written down, becomes less oppressive, but some thoughts are like a cancerous tumor: you express is, you excise it, and it grows back worse than before.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“Measure me while I live - after it will be too late.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“I am surrounded by some sort of wretched specters, not by people. They torment me as can torment only senseless visions, bad dreams, dregs of delirium, the drivel of nightmares and everything that passes down here for real life.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“Comme un fou se croit Dieu, nous nous croyons mortels.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“Just like a man grieving because he has recently lost in his dreams some thing that he had never had in reality, or hoping that tomorrow he would dream that he found it again. That is how mathematics is created; it has its fatal flaw.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“I suppose the pain of parting will be red and loud.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“...All my best words are deserters and do not answer the trumpet call, and the remainder are cripples.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“But then I have long since grown accustomed to the thought that what we call dreams is semi-reality, the promise of reality, a foreglimpse and a whiff of it; that is they contain, in a very vague, diluted state, more genuine reality than our vaunted waking life which, in its turn, is semi-sleep, an evil drowsiness into which penetrate in grotesque disguise the sounds and sights of the real world, flowing beyond the periphery of the mind—as when you hear during sleep a dreadful insidious tale because a branch is scraping on the pane, or see yourself sinking into snow because your blanket is sliding off.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“As far back as I can remember myself—and I remember myself with lawless lucidity, I have been my own accomplice, who knows too much, and therefore is dangerous.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“For life has worn me down: continual uneasiness, concealment of my knowledge, pretense, fear, a painful straining of all my nerves—not to let down, not to ring out … and even to this day I still feel an ache in that part of my memory where the very beginning of this effort is recorded, that is, the occasion when I first understood that things which to me had seemed natural were actually forbidden, impossible, that any thought of them was criminal.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“Today our unsophisticated cameras record in their own way our hastily assembled and painted world.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“I am here through an error—not in this prison, specifically—but in this whole terrible, striped world;”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“What are these hopes, and who is this savior?” “Imagination,” replied Cincinnatus.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“. . . and in the end the logical thing would be to give up and I would give up if I were laboring for a reader today, but as there is in the world not a single human who can speak my language; or, more simply, not a single human who can speak; or, even more simply, not a single human; I must think only of myself, of that force which urges me to express myself. I repeat: there is something I know, there is something I know, there is something...”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“There, tam, la-bas, the gaze of men glows with inimitable understanding; there the freaks that are tortured here walk unmolested; there time takes shape according to one’s pleasure, like a figured rug whose folds can be gathered in such a way that two designs will meet—and the rug is once again smoothed out, and you live on, or else superimpose the next image on the last, endlessly, endlessly, with the leisurely concentration of a woman selecting a belt to go with her dress—now she glides in my direction, rhythmically butting the velvet with her knees, comprehending everything and comprehensible to me…There, there are the original of those gardens where we used to roam and hide in this world; there everything strikes one by its bewitching evidence, by the simplicity of perfect good; there everything pleases one’s soul, everything is filled with the kind of fun that children know; there shines the mirror that now and then sends a chance reflection here…”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“He stood up and took off the dressing gown, the skullcap, the slippers. He took off the linen trousers and shirt. He took off his head like a toupee, took off his collarbones like shoulder straps, took off his rib cage like a hauberk. He took off his hips and his legs, he took off his arms like gauntlets and threw them in a corner. What was left of him gradually dissolved, hardly coloring the air.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“In accordance with the law the death sentence was announced to Cincinnatus C. in a whisper.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“how can I write about this when I am afraid of not having time to finish and of stirring up all these thoughts in vain?”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“I am quite willing to admit that they are also a deception but right now I believe in them so much that I infect them with truth.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“No, I have as yet said nothing, or, rather, said only bookish words... and in the end the logical thing would be for me to give up and I would give up if I were labouring for a reader existing today, but as there is in the world not a single human who can speak my language; or, more simply, not a single human who can speak; or, even more simply, not a single human; I must think only of myself, of that force which urges me to express myself.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“But how can I begin writing when I do not know whether I shall have time enough, and the torture comes when you say to yourself, ‘Yesterday there would have been enough time’—and again you think, ‘If only I had begun yesterday …’ And instead of the clear and precise work that is needed, instead of a gradual preparation of the soul for that morning when it will have to get up, when—when you, soul, will be offered the executioner’s pail to wash in—Instead, you involuntarily indulge in banal senseless dreams of escape—alas, of escape …”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“It isn’t possible. I cannot imagine it. Come on over here, you foolish little doe, and tell me on what day I shall die.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“But even during this sleep—still, still—his real life showed through too much.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“From his earliest years Cincinnatus, by some strange and happy chance comprehending his danger, carefully managed to conceal a certain peculiarity. He was impervious to the rays of others, and therefore produced when off his guard a bizarre impression, as of a lone dark obstacle in the world of souls transparent to one other; he learned however to feign translucence, employing a complex system of optical illusions, as it were--but he had only to forget himself, to allow a momentary lapse in self control, in the manipulation of cunningly illuminated facets and angles at which he turned his soul, and immediately there was alarm. In the midst of the excitement of a game his coevals would suddenly forsake him, as if they had sensed that his lucid gaze and the azure of his temples were but a crafty deception and that actually Cincinnatus was opaque. Sometimes, in the midst of sudden silence, the teacher, in a chagrined perplexity, would gather up all the reserves of skin around his eyes, gaze at him for a long while and finally say: "What is wrong with you, Cincinnatus?" Then Cincinnatus would take hold of himself, and, clutching his own self to his breast, would remove that self to a safe place.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“The hoary judge put his mouth close to his ear, panted for a moment, made the announcement and slowly moved away, as though ungluing himself.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“What anguish! Cincinnatus, what anguish! What stone anguish, Cincinnatus—the merciless bong of the clock, and the obese spider, and the yellow walls, and the roughness of the black wool blanket. The skim on the chocolate. Pluck it with two fingers at the very center and snatch it whole from the surface, no longer a flat covering, but a wrinkled brown little skirt. The liquid is tepid underneath, sweetish and stagnant. Three slices of toast with tortoise shell burns. A round pat of butter embossed with the monogram of the director. What anguish, Cincinnatus, how many crumbs in the bed!”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“It is desirable that the inmate should not have at all, or if he does, should immediately himself suppress nocturnal dreams whose content might be incompatible with the condition and status of the prisoner, such as: resplendent landscapes, outings with friends, family dinners, as well as sexual intercourse with persons who in real life and in the waking state would not suffer said individual to come near, which individual will therefore be considered by the law to be guilty of rape.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“twirling in his fingers the mummy of a cigar,”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


“A bowling ball rolled through his head, diagonally from nape to temple; it paused and started back.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from Invitation to a Beheading


About the author

Vladimir Nabokov
Born place: in Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
Born date April 22, 1899
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