Spring in Fialta
by Vladimir Nabokov
The Circus Posters
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Much like the hints we get as to the shift in Fialta’s weather, we get a number of indications that the circus is a big deal in "Spring in Fialta." We counted five. But we probably missed one, so you should go through the text and find them yourself. ☺ In this way, the circus is another piece of the memory puzzle, another example of the way that, in retrospect, we can remember the details that turned out to be important, though at the time we had no way of recognizing their significance.
But the circus serves a second purpose in "Spring in Fialta": it combines the tragedy of Victor’s relationship Nina with the absurdity of his feelings for her. Look at it this way: Victor barely knows Nina. He didn’t know her name or anything about her when they first hooked up, and they seem to have had no meaningful conversations whatsoever. As he explains, they "never [think] of each other during the intervals," and each of their marriages continues "unimpaired" despite their various rendezvous. So what could possibly explain his "’What if I love you?" comment? Victor’s feelings are absurd. They’re absurd for existing at all, but they’re even more absurd for their intensity. When Nina casually greeted and then ignored him at a party, Victor says his "heart felt like breaking." But he sums it up best when he says that he learned "with a ridiculous pang" that Nina was going to marry Ferdinand. Ridiculous pang – the absurd, and the tragic, right there in one phrase.
So…what does this have to do with the circus? Easy. Circus = entertainment. Clowns, smiles, candy, laughter, elephants – everything Victor saw on those circus posters. The circus is about the comic. Then there’s the whole nature of Nina’s death; her car crashes into a circus truck. Come on, that’s a little nuts. That’s quite a way to die. "How did she die?" "Oh, you know, she crashed into the circus." It’s almost funny. Of course, it’s also unbelievably tragic. Victor reads about the death of the woman he loves shortly after he told her of his feelings. He has just celebrated their past, only to find that they have no future. And all because of a traveling circus that he never saw coming.