Tag Archives: Magic Sentences

Marginalia, no.184

Thrice, to the mighty heave-ho of his invisible tossers, he would fly up in this fashion, and the second time he would go higher than the first and then there he would be, on his last and loftiest flight, reclining, as if for good, against the cobalt blue of the summer noon, like one of those paradisiac personages who comfortably soar, with such a wealth of folds in their garments, on the vaulted ceiling of a church while below, one by one, the wax tapers in mortal hands light up to make a swarm of minute flames in the mist of incense, and the priest chants of eternal repose, and funeral lilies conceal the face of whoever lies there, among the swimming lights, in the open coffin.

~ Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory

The local peasants had come to ask a favor of the barin and Vladimir’s father stepped outside to hear them. In gratitude, when he’d granted their request, they took him in their arms and tossed him up with a cheer. Through the frame of the dining room window, little Nabokov saw his father bob up and down over the hedge… Forgiven its length (a special allowance for magic), the single sentence achieves something like real levitation. Sentences like this make me want to set aside my pen and keyboard forever. What’s the use of being a two-bit conjurer when Merlin walks the woods?

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