Spring in Fialta
by Vladimir Nabokov
Analysis: Writing Style
"Mosaic," "Gouache," Elaborately Composed, Artful
"Spring in Fialta" is almost like a visual work of art. We use the words "mosaic" and "gouache" because, to be quite honest, we stole them from the text. You’ve probably heard the term "mosaic," a work that’s composed of many small fragments. In this case, the small fragments are Victor’s memories of Nina, mini-vignettes which together make up the short story. "Gouache" refers to a type of painting that’s a little but like watercolor, except the paint is heavier, reflective, and not as transparent. Victor uses this word to describe the sky above Fialta, but it’s an apt description of "Spring in Fialta" as well, a series of stories which reflects for Victor his own feelings for Nina.
This probably feels a little over the top. Do we REALLY need to use complicated art terms to describe the style of "Spring in Fialta?" Probably not, but it’s in the style of "Spring in Fialta" to do so. The narrative is artful, carefully crafted, and incredibly selective in its word choice. Just look at the first sentence of the story: "Spring in Fialta is cloudy and dull." Read that out loud. Do you hear the meter? "SPRING in fiALta is CLOUdy and DULL." It’s not just sound and rhythm, but meaning that is stuffed into every sentence. You have to unpack the details, sometimes word by word, sometimes with a dictionary. Nabokov said that "art is difficult," but he also said that we all read for one thing: the "spine tingle" of figuring something out. When you realize that "Fialta" is an echo of "Yalta," that’s a spine tingle. When you recognize that the native with beads around her neck makes TWO appearances in the text, but the narrator doesn’t realize it’s the same girl, that’s a spine tingle. So… go tingle!