“Muskaan, undying is used for emotions, not nouns.”
Hear me out. This squirrel that lived for twenty minutes was so unsettling that it has been bothering me all weekend. I was first acquainted to this squirrel last Monday, when we started Pnin in my University Fictions class. One of the most beautiful books that I have ever read, I tried to ignore the squirrel at first but then realised that it was what was carrying the burdens of Pnin’s life on its back. Actually, let’s call her Mira. We finished reading the book in class within five days – three lectures – the final discussion was last Friday.
Vladimir Nabokov, that eternal genius. He lives in this world still, through Lolita and through Pnin and through all the characters he has created over time. I envy him from the bottom of my heart. It’s almost as if every time I read anything written by him, I am surrounded by this overwhelming feeling of ambiguity – which, on one hand makes me so content and on the other, makes me want to get into his head and write like him but that being as improbable as it is, I find myself rather envious and annoyed.
So, Pnin is a hilariously pitiful and yet freeing book about Professor Pnin. The first half of the book, a squirrel popped in on every other page. When I went to class on Friday, I was expecting to talk about birds, because Nabokov did something similar with birds in the second half of the book and yet, we ended up talking about the recurring appearances of the squirrel in the text. Some of us said that it was just there, existing…some others said that the squirrel was a metaphor of the writer who writes books; meanwhile we, as readers, chase that squirrel expecting a surprise at the end of the chase. Then came some previously thought thoughts.
The squirrel is one of the women reincarnated that the younger Pnin had a love affair with, Mira, who was killed in the Holocaust. The one that seemed rather believable to me was the one which said that the squirrel is a signal that the plot is fabricated as a part of the book, that it is going in a chronology created by the writer and is not real. The squirrel was murdered by the bells from the campanile, suggesting that it was 1 o’clock already and we were to stand up and leave. The smile on my Professor’s face drooped ever so slightly and we went on with our lives, with the squirrel running around in the classroom, waiting for us to tell her what else she could be.