Quotes from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

Vladimir Nabokov ·  181 pages

Rating: (4K votes)


“The breaking of a wave cannot explain the whole sea.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“Suddenly for no earthly reason I felt immensely sorry for him and longed to say something real, something with wings and a heart, but the birds I wanted settled on my shoulders and head only later when I was alone and not in need of words.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“There is only one real number: one. And love, apparently, is the best exponent of this singularity.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“I cannot help feeling there is something essentially wrong about love. Friends may quarrel or drift apart, close relations too, but there is not this pang, this pathos, this fatality which clings to love. Friendship never has that doomed look. Why, what is the matter? I have not stopped loving you, but because I cannot go on kissing your dim dear face, we must part, we must part.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“The only real number is one, the rest are mere repetition”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight



“I am Sebastian, or Sebastian is I, or perhaps we both are someone whom neither of us knows.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“The answer to all questions of life and death, "the absolute solution" was written all over the world he had known: it was like a traveller realising that the wild country he surveys is not an accidental assembly of natural phenomena, but the page in a book where these mountains and forests, and fields, and rivers are disposed in such a way as to form a coherent sentence; the vowel of a lake fusing with the consonant of a sibilant slope; the windings of a road writing its message in a round hand, as clear as that of one's father; trees conversing in dumb-show, making sense to one who has learnt the gestures of their language... Thus the traveller spells the landscape and its sense is disclosed, and likewise, the intricate pattern of human life turns out to be monogrammatic, now quite clear to the inner eye disentangling the interwoven letters. And the word, the meaning which appears is astounding in its simplicity: the greatest surprise being perhaps that in the course of one's earthly existence, with one's brain encompassed by an iron ring, by the close-fitting dream of one's own personality - one had not made by chance that simple mental jerk, which would have set free imprisoned thought and granted it the great understanding.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“No Leslie, I'm not dead. I have finished building a world, and this is my Sabbath rest.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“Fame in our day is too common to be confused with the enduring glow around the deserving book.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“If there is anything of which I am certain in life it is that I shall never exchange the liberty of my exile for the vile parody of home.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight



“Forget me now, but remember me afterwards, when the bitter part is forgotten. This”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“Our life together was alliterative, and when I think of all the little things which will die, now that we cannot share them, I feel as if we were dead too. And perhaps we are. You see, the greater our happiness was, the hazier its edges grew, as if its outlines were melting, and now it has dissolved altogether. I have not stopped loving you; but something is dead in me, and I cannot see you in the mist … This is all poetry. I am lying to you. Lily-livered. There can be nothing more cowardly than a poet beating about the bush. I”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“Somehow, too, I remembered Chichikov’s round of weird visits in Gogol’s “Dead Souls.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“Now, when it was too late, and Life's shops were closed, he regretted not having bought a certain book he had always wanted; never having gone through an earthquake, a fire, a train accident; never having seen Tatsienlu in Tibet, or heard blue magpies chattering in Chinese willows; not having spoken to that errant schoolgirl with shameless eyes, met one day in a lonely glade; not having laughed at the poor little joke of a shy ugly woman, when no one had laughed in the room; having missed trains, allusions, and opportunities; not having handed the penny he had in his pocket to that old street violinist playing to himself tremulously on a certain bleak day in a certain forgotten town.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“As it happens with many people who do not trouble about religion in the ordinary trend of life, I hastily invented a soft, warm, tear-misty God, and whispered an informal prayer. Let me get there in time, let him hold out till I come, let him tell me his secret. Now it was all snow: the glass had grown a grey beard.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight



“She entered his life without knocking, as one might step into the wrong room because of its vague resemblance to one’s own. She stayed there forgetting the way out and quietly getting used to the strange creatures she found there”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“Sana anlatılanın aslında üç aşamalı olduğunu unutma; önce anlatan tarafından biçimlendiğini, sonra dinleyen tarafından yeniden biçimlendiğini, öyküdeki ölmüş adamın her ikisinden de sakladığı şeyler olduğunu.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“She had imagination — the muscle of the soul — and her imagination was of a particularly strong, almost masculine quality. She possessed, too, that real sense of beauty which has far less to do with art than with the constant readiness to discern the halo round a frying-pan or the likeness between a weeping-willow and a Skye terrier. And finally she was blest with a keen sense of humour. No wonder she fitted into his life so well.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“The Lethean Library, for all its incalculable volumes, is, I know, sadly incomplete without Mr. Goodman's effort.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“But one shelf was a little neater than the rest and here I noted the following sequence which for a moment seemed to form a vague musical phrase, oddly familiar: Hamlet, La morte d’Arthur, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, South Wind, The Lady with the Dog, Madame Bovary, The Invisible Man, Le Temps Retrouvé, Anglo-Persian Dictionary, The Author of Trixie, Alice in Wonderland, Ulysses, About Buying a Horse, King Lear … The melody gave a small gasp and faded.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight



“A real hansom-cab took him from the station to Trinity College: the vehicle, it seemed, had been waiting there especially for him, desperately holding out against extinction till that moment, and then gladly dying out to join side whiskers and the Large Copper.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“Knight seemed to him to be constantly playing some game of his own invention, without telling his partners its rules.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“Yes, I think that of all his books this is my favourite one. I don’t know whether it makes one “think,” and I don’t much care if it does not. I like it for its own sake. I like its manners.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“All things considered, it had been his home, and the set of kindly, well-meaning, gentle-mannered people driven to death or exile for the sole crime of their existing, was the set to which he too belonged. His dark youthful broodings, the romantic—and let me add, somewhat artificial—passion for his mother’s land, could not, I am sure, exclude real affection for the country where he had been born and bred.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“He was a noisy robust little man with a gleam of real talent concealed in the messy obscurity of his verse. But because he did his best to shock people with his monstrous mass of otiose words (he was the inventor of the “submental grunt” as he called it), his main output seems now so nugatory, so false, so old-fashioned (super-modern things have a queer knack of dating much faster than others) that his true value is only remembered by a few scholars who admire the magnificent translations of English poems made by him at the very outset of his literary career,—”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight



“(Sebastian, for all his moodiness, at times devised some piece of ghoulish fun, as when in a crowded tramcar he had the ticket-collector transmit to a girl in the far end of the car a scribbled message which really ran thus: I am only a poor ticket-collector, but I love you);”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“I cannot help feeling there is something essentially wrong about love. Friends may quarrel or drift apart, close relations too, but there is not this pang, this pathos, this fatality which clings to love. Friendship never has that doomed look. Why, what is the matter? I have not stopped loving you, but because I cannot go on kissing your dim dear face, we must part, we must part. Why is it so? What is this mysterious exclusiveness? One may have a thousand friends, but only one love-mate. Harems have nothing to do with this matter: I am speaking of dance, not gymnastics. Or can one imagine a tremendous Turk loving every one of his four hundred wives as I love you? For if I say ‘two’ I have started to count and there is no end to it. There is only one real number: One. And love, apparently, is the best exponent of this singularity.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


“One was the common one with writers of his type: the bridging of the abyss lying between expression and thought; the maddening feeling that the right words, the only words are awaiting you on the opposite bank in the misty distance, and the shudderings of the still unclothed thought clamouring for them on this side of the abyss. He”
― Vladimir Nabokov, quote from The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


About the author

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