Michael Sean Strickland

Books I’ve Read


428 — Nabokov, V. (1941, 1968). The real life of Sebastian Knight. New York: New Directions, 1959. Fourth printing. 2 June 2004, Philadelphia.

« “I was,” writes Sebastian in Lost Property, “so shy that I always managed somehow to commit the fault I was most anxious to avoid. In my disastrous attempt to match the colour of my surroundings, I could only be compared to a colour-blind chameleon. My shyness would have been easier to bear — for me and for others — had it been of the normal clammy-and-pimply kind: many a young fellow passes through this stage and nobody really minds. But with me it assumed a morbid secret form which had nothing to do with the throes of puberty. Among the most hackneyed inventions of the torture house there is one consisting of denying the prisoner sleep. Most people live through the day with this or that part of their mind in a happy state of somnolence: a hungry man eating a steak is interested in his food and not, say, in the memory of a dream about angels wearing top-hats which he happened to see seven years ago; but in my case all the shutters and lids and doors of the mind would be open at once at all times of the day. Most brains have their Sundays, mine was even refused a half-holiday. This state of constant wakefulness was extremely painful not only in itself, but in its direct results. Every ordinary act which, as a matter of course, I had to perform, took on such a complicated appearance, provoked such a multitude of associative ideas in my mind, and these associations were so tricky and obscure, so utterly useless for practical application, that I would either shirk the business at hand or else make a mess of it out of sheer nervousness” » (p. 67).

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