A Revolver to Carry at Night Buy from other retailers

Publication Date: Apr 16, 2024

160 pp


List Price US: $15.99

ISBN: 978-1-63542-380-8

Trim Size: 5.21 x 7.97 x 0.47 in.


List Price US: $9.99

ISBN: 978-1-63542-381-5

A Revolver to Carry at Night

A Novel

by Monika Zgustova Translated by Julie Jones


He looked through the window at the lake, silver in the light of a timid spring sun, while he thought about the novel he was writing: The Original of Laura. He recognized that whenever he conferred a touching detail from his own life on one of his characters, it was quickly absorbed by the fictional world in which it had been unceremoniously dropped. Even if it did stay with him, the warmth and charm it had enjoyed in his memory began to dissipate, until after a while it became more intimately related to the novel than to his own experience.
He glanced at his son, who had just entered the room, and decided not to draw on his dearest memories for the new book. This time he would keep them to himself. He did not want his memories to end up the way the silent films from his long-distant childhood and youth had. He would not allow his work to steal the best part of his life, the part he kept for himself.
His son, Dmitri, forty-three years old now, was wearing a dark formal suit and a white shirt adorned with a splendid, pastel green tie. Tall and slim, he was like a poplar in the glory of spring. It was five thirty in the afternoon. A breeze that was very warm for March entered the open window of the little apartment in the Montreux Palace Hotel.
Véra praised their son, “You look very smart.”
And it was true that Dmitri, an opera singer at La Scala in Milan, shared his father’s aristocratic carriage. From his mother, he had inherited the translucent eyes and the classic features of the Mediterranean Jew.
“Are you going out this evening, Mitia?” his father asked. “You didn’t say anything about it this afternoon on our walk.”
Dmitri explained that a friend of his was singing in The Barber of Seville, which was being debuted that night at the Grand Théâtre in Geneva. The friend had left him a free ticket at the box office.
Véra wanted to know if he would eat supper with them after the opera.
He would eat something with his friends, he answered, heading toward the door. On the way, he opened a drawer in the table to pick up the key to his car, a blue Ferrari he had gotten only a few months ago, in late 1976. Véra trembled every time he went out in his car, but once again she hid her feelings. She knew very well that he had inherited his taste for cars and high speed from her.
She said only, “Where’s your coat, Mitia? You need something warmer. It’s just March. There will be a wind from the mountains and the lake.”
But Dmitri was longing for the warm weather of spring. As he saw it, going out with no overcoat was a way to entice the heat, and so he went off into the night wearing only his elegant suit.
The next day, as he did every morning, the waiter served them breakfast at the table in one of their rooms, the one they used as a dining room, office, and sitting room in the apartment they had kept for fifteen years on the highest floor of the hotel. Dmitri blew his nose, coughed, and said his throat was sore. Véra longed to give him a motherly reproach—“See, that’s because you didn’t listen to me”— but she restrained herself. She only asked if it had been cold last night. Dmitri sipped a little tea and said that, when they left the opera and made their way to the restaurant, the weather had changed, and an icy wind had blown in from the Alps.
“I must have caught a cold. After breakfast, I’ll lie down again for a while.”
The cold turned into flu. Dmitri asked his father, who was near eighty, to please stay away from his bedroom. But he could not keep his mother out even though she was nearly as old. She took care of him all that day. The next day, she got sick. The flu had wreaked havoc that year, and the weather had certainly changed: After a hint of spring, the winter wind came back with a vengeance.
As he did every morning, Nabokov woke up at seven after a night that brought little rest. He tended to sleep from eleven until two without a break, thanks to a sleeping pill. When it stopped working, he took another and slept from four until seven. In the interim, he read. In the morning, he stayed in bed for a while, planning what he was going to write and do during the day. At eight he shaved, ate breakfast, and chatted with Véra. After that he took a bath. Clean and fed, he started writing. When the maids invaded the apartment with their brooms and vacuum, he and Véra took a walk along the lake’s edge. At one o’clock, Madame Furrier, who looked like a cheerful fox, served them lunch.
She prepared it in a room where they had installed a little kitchen. Nabokov went back to writing before two so he could finish at five thirty. Then he went out to walk a bit and to buy the newspapers. He had the feeling that in Switzerland he was forgetting his English, so he read the Anglo-Saxon—especially the North American—press: The New York Times, The New York Review of Books, Newsweek, and Time, as well as The Times Literary Supplement. The Nabokovs had moved from the United States to Switzerland after the enormous success of Lolita made it possible for them to lead a comfortable life, free of financial worries. Every day Vladimir bought his newspapers and magazines at three different kiosks to spread around his business. He would joke with the newsagents, as he did with the people who worked at the hotel.
The journalists, who often turned up uninvited at the Montreux Palace, in hopes of an interview, complained that he was so conceited he did not want to see them. The staff at the hotel, on the other hand, adored him and defended him fiercely. The journalists did not understand. In their eyes, he was reserved, cold, and unpleasant. If Dmitri was in the hotel for a visit, he would explain that his father’s apparent arrogance and coldness were a way to protect himself from the constant pressure of photographers and journalists who besieged the hotel. Accuracy was a virtue Nabokov valued; he thought long and hard about a question in order to give the best answer he could. For that reason, he only responded to written interviews.
In the morning, Véra got up to eat breakfast with Vladimir. She pulled her thick white hair—the only embellishment she wore—behind her ears so that it would not fall around her face while she was eating. When she had finished, she sat on the armchair in her husband’s room. He got up with the idea of kissing her.
“No, Volodia, you’ll catch my flu!” She shooed him away.
So Vladimir sat down again at his desk, not without some difficulty, and pretended to write, but he couldn’t concentrate. He was thinking about Véra and himself when they were just over twenty . . .

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