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Characters

Victor Timeline and Summary

  • The narrator introduces a cloudy and dull spring day in Fialta in the early 1930s. He explains that his wife and children are at home, and that he’s there on business.
  • He notices a girl of twelve wearing beads, a circus poster, and an Englishman wearing plus-fours as he makes his way up a hill; then he sees Nina.
  • Victor makes it clear that Nina is going to die shortly.
  • He greets her, and recalls the first time they met, a birthday party in the winter of 1917 in Russia. He met her outside in the snow, made out for a while before knowing her name, and discovered that she was engaged.
  • Back in Fialta, Victor watches Nina almost buy a purse and then change her mind, reminding him of her fickleness.
  • Victor remembers the second time he met Nina, in Berlin, when he was engaged himself, and she was single again. When she greeted him, he explains, she invented a long friendship between them which had never really existed.
  • A year later, they met again in a train station, and Victor introduced Nina to his wife, Elena. He was hurt to discover that she was getting married to Ferdinand.
  • He recalls a tryst he had with Nina in a hotel in Paris.
  • Victor discusses Ferdinand and how much he hates the guy and his writing and his circle of pseudo-intellectual friends.
  • In Fialta again, Ferdinand and Segur join Nina and Victor, and Ferdinand buys a tacky paperweight inkwell of Mount St. George.
  • Victor lists some many more of the chance encounters he had with Nina, one in particular in the Pyrenees, when she and Ferdinand and Victor were all staying at the same Chateau. He waited all night for her to come to his room; she never did, and the next day he confessed his disappointment to her.
  • Victor stops to reflect on his relationship with Nina. He doesn’t know how to deal with it, and their interactions sadden him. He feels as though something is being wasted.
  • In Fialta, after the four friends have had lunch together, Victor walks alone with Nina. When they stroll by Segur’s yellow car, Victor has a premonition of the three of them getting into it and Nina waving good-bye for the last time.
  • Then we jump backwards in time and see the four friends having lunch. Victor watches the plus-fours-wearing Englishman, who is lunching nearby, as he stares at and finally captures a moth resting at the corner of a window.
  • Right after lunch, Victor steals Nina away for some alone time. As they stroll along, he notices the tacky Mount St. George inkwell, which Ferdinand had abandoned.
  • He remembers the most recent time he and Nina met, in Paris, when a friend tried to introduce him to her. All night his "heart felt like breaking" as she casually ignored him from across the room.
  • Back in Fialta, atop a terrace, Victor says to Nina, "Look here—what if I love you?" When it’s clear that Nina is both surprised and embarrassed, Victor tells her he was only joking.
  • Nina, Ferdinand, and Segur get into their car and drive off, and Victor suddenly realizes that Fialta, far from the cloudy and damp atmosphere we started with, is now "saturated with sunshine."
  • We cut to Victor standing at a station platform and reading a newspaper, which informs him that Segur’s little yellow car has crashed into a circus truck heading for Fialta. Segur and Ferdinand escaped, but Nina was killed.

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