Friday, December 18, 2009

Sebastian Knight was born on the thirty-first of December, 1899, in the former capital of my country. An old Russian lady who has for some obscure reason begged me not to divulge her name, happened to show me in Paris the diary she had kept in the past. So uneventful had those years been (apparently) that the collecting of daily details (which is always a poor method of self-preservation) barely surpassed a short description of the day’s weather; and it is curious to note in this respect that the personal diaries of sovereigns—no matter what troubles beset their realms—are mainly concerned with the same subject. Luck being what it is when left alone, here I was offered something which I might never have hunted down had it been a chosen quarry. Therefore I am able to state that the morning of Sebastian’s birth was a fine windless one, with twelve degrees (Reaumur) below zero … this is all, however, that the good lady found worth setting down. On second thought I cannot see any real necessity of complying with her anonymity. That she will ever read this book seems wildly improbable. Her name was and is Olga Olegovna Orlova—an egg-like alliteration which it would have been a pity to withhold.
Vladimir Nabokov, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

Thursday, December 17, 2009

‘How shrewd you are!’ she exclaimed with admiration. ‘You’re a psychoanalyst.’

‘One doesn’t have to be a psychoanalyst to make psychological observations,’ said Moragas, galled. He had a horror of psychoanalysis, because he was right-wing. And he was right-wing because he was in business; if he had been in nothing, like Celestino, he might have been an anarchist, like Celestino.

He went on:

‘Psychoanalysis is psychology pure and simple, when it’s carried out by someone who isn’t intelligent, or who’s a bit corrupt. Three years ago I knocked my head against the door leading up from my cellar. Immediately I had brain trouble. So it was nothing to do with psychoanalysis. I was given the name of a famous neurologist, and I found myself — there was some misunderstanding — in the hands of a psychiatrist. The questions he asked were so irrelevant (no connection whatsoever with my case) and so preposterous that I realized at once that I was dealing with a sick man. I felt sorry for him. I answered his questions in a way that I thought would soothe and console him. I hope I did him some good.’
Henry de Montherlant, Chaos and Night