Michael Sean Strickland

Books I’ve Read


91 — Nabokov, V. (1941, 1968). The real life of Sebastian Knight. New York: New Directions, 1959. Fourth printing. 21 May 1994, Philadelphia.

« So I did not see Sebastian after all, or at least I did not see him alive. But those few minutes I spent listening to what I thought was his breathing changed my life as completely as it would have changed, had Sebastian spoken to me before dying. Whatever his secret was, I have learnt one secret too, and namely: that the soul is but a manner of being — not a constant state — that any soul may be yours, if you find and follow its undulations. The hereafter may be the full ability of consciously living in any chosen soul, in any number of souls, all of them unconscious of their interchangeable burden. Thus — I am Sebastian Knight. I feel as if I were impersonating him on a lighted stage, with the people he knew coming and going — the dim figures of the few friends he had, the scholar, and the poet, and the painter, — smoothly and noiselessly paying their graceful tribute; and here is Goodman, the flat-footed buffoon, with his dicky hanging out of his waistcoat; and there — the pale radiance of Clare’s inclined head, as she is led away weeping by a friendly maiden. They move around Sebastian — round me who am acting Sebastian, — and the old conjuror waits in the wings with his hidden rabbit; and Nina sits on a table in the brightest corner of the stage, with a wineglass of fuchsined wine, under a painted palm. And then the masquerade draws to a close. The bald little prompter shuts his book, as the light fades gently. The end, the end. They all go back to their everyday life (and Clare goes back to her grave) — but the hero remains, for, try as I might, I cannot get out of my part: Sebastian’s mask clings to my face, the likeness will not be washed off. I am Sebastian, or Sebastian is I, or perhaps we both are someone whom neither of us knows » (pp. 204–205).

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