Spring in Fialta
by Vladimir Nabokov
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
First Person (Central Narrator)
Like most first person stories, the point of view of "Spring in Fialta" has some weighty ramifications for the way we interpret the text. Because everything is filtered through Victor, and because his memory is at best dream-like and at worst a hazy fog, we have to doubt everything he says – not because he’s lying, but because he can’t possible portray with accuracy the story of his last encounter with Nina. He surely leaves some details out, and he includes those that he knows in retrospect are important – like the circus posters.
Victor’s narrative is also aware of its artifice. The narrator knows he’s telling a story, and he doesn’t let you forget it. English majors would call this metafiction, or fiction that addresses the process of writing fiction. We see this most prominently when Victor attacks Ferdinand for his writing. "I never could understand what was the good of thinking up books, of penning things that had not really happened in some way or other," he says, adding, "Were I a writer, I should allow only my heart to have imagination, and for the rest rely upon memory."
We can’t help but apply Victor’s claims to this particular work of writing – to "Spring in Fialta." The narrator is indirectly commenting on the story from within the text. He goes so far as to describe his relationship with Nina in terms of the written word. "Again and again she hurriedly appeared in the margins of my life, without influencing in the least its basic text," he says, and later, "Occasionally, in the middle of a conversation her name would be mentioned, and she would run down the steps of a chance sentence." Victor sets Nina not only in an artificial world of memory, but in a fictional world of his own writing. Tricky, isn’t it?