Anatomy of a Short Story: Nabokov's Puzzles, Codes, Signs and Symbols

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Since its first publication in 1948, one of Vladimir Nabokov's shortest short stories, Signs and Symbols, has generated perhaps more interpretations and critical appraisal than any other that he wrote. It has been called one of the greatest short stories ever written and a triumph of economy and force, minute realism and shimmering mystery (Brian Boyd, Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years). Part and parcel of a classical short fiction genre, Nabokov's Signs and Symbols --one of his last experiments in short prose--strikes with lexical density and contains a surprising structural element: what the writer had described in his letter to Katharine White, the editor of the New Yorker, as having an inside, inner scheme, and a system of mute responses . The goal of the present collection of essays is to approach the narrative riddles of Signs and Symbols -- reproduced here in full -- an open-ended story which invites attempts to break its mysterious code. In doing so, the contributors illuminate the ways in which we interpret fiction, and the short story in particular.