The Return of Chorb
by Vladimir Nabokov
Chorb Timeline and Summary
- Chorb has lied to the Kellers’ maid because he doesn’t want to share the news of his wife’s death with anyone else. He feels it is pure and wants to keep it to himself.
- We get Chorb’s back-story: while on his honeymoon with the Kellers’ daughter, she touched a live electric wire and was killed. He had her buried abroad and then returned to Germany alone.
- While on his return journey, Chorb tried to re-live all the moments he and his wife had shared on the way to the south of France. He feels that if he can re-create the past, he can create a new, immortal image of his wife.
- For Chorb, the most difficult time is night, when he is afraid of seeing his wife beside him.
- We cut to an earlier part of the evening, around 8p.m., while the Kellers are still at the opera. Chorb arrives at the same seedy hotel where he shared his wedding night with his wife. At seeing a painting on the wall, he knows he is in the very same room.
- The narrative covers the back-story: Chorb and his wife were supposed to spend their wedding night at the Kellers’, but they snuck away to this hotel instead.
- They never made love that night; Chorb slept on the couch and his wife in the bed.
- Back in the present, Chorb is freaking out. The hotel room seems full of ghostly oddities, like a swinging bulb and eerie moth. He leaves.
- Out in the streets, Chorb thinks back to the autumn when he was with his wife. He walks all the way to the Kellers’ house and speaks with the maid, telling her that his wife is ill and that he’s staying at the "same old place."
- As he heads back to the hotel, Chorb realizes that he won’t be able to sleep alone. He picks up a prostitute and takes her back to the room.
- Once there, Chorb gives the prostitute the money, tells her he’ll give her more in the morning, and has her get into bed.
- He himself falls asleep immediately, without sex or anything like it.
- Shortly after both of them are asleep, Chorb wakes up and thinks he sees his wife lying there next to him. He sits up screaming, which of course wakes and terrifies the prostitute.
- When Chorb realizes that she’s NOT his dead wife, he relaxes bit. He sits down on the green couch and smiles.
- When a knocking comes at the door, the prostitute opens it to the Kellers and the lackey. She exits, and the Kellers enter the room and close the door behind them.
- As far as anyone can tell, the Kellers and Chorb remain silent behind the closed door.