Spring in Fialta
by Vladimir Nabokov
The Passage of Time in the Narrative
Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory
Time is going to be a little off in any story that largely features memory. But notice that things start to get really screwy towards the end of "Spring in Fialta," in the scene where Victor and Nina walk to the hotel and she points out Segur’s yellow car. Until now, we’ve jumped back and forth between the present in Fialta and the past. Within each of those, time has been consistent: happenings in Fialta go in order, and happenings in the past come in order. But now it gets weird. Victor and Nina hang out by the yellow car while Ferdinand and Segur approach. Then we go BACK in time to the lunch they had earlier that day, followed by Victor’s foppish declaration of love, and then we SKIP FORWARD again to the trio’s departure in the yellow car. Victor also claims to have had a premonition of Nina’s departure while they were standing motionless by the car outside the hotel. And in the story’s final paragraph, we move without explanation from Victor standing with Nina on the terrace to his realization that the sky is sunny to his standing on a train station platform.
Accompanying this funky time stuff, the action gets a little more magical as well. After Victor declares and then retracts his feelings for Nina, "from somewhere a firm bouquet of small dark, unselfishly smelling violets [appear] in her hands." From somewhere? Appear?
In a way, this funny business – both with respect to time and to realism – reflect that Victor is losing control. This is where we really get a sense that our narrator’s artistic memory has taken over and is manipulating the story; reality is now cloudy, and his descriptions can’t be trusted as "real."