"Ultima Thule"

"Ultima Thule," the first Chapter of the unfinished Russian novel Solus Rex, published in Novyy Zhurnal, I, New York, 1942; English translation by Dmitri Nabokov in collaboration with author, published in The New Yorker; reprinted in the collection A Russian Beauty and Other Stories, McGraw-Hill, 1973. "Solus Rex," the second Chapter, published in Sovremennyya Zapiski, LXX, Paris, 1940; English translation by Dmitri Nabokov in collaboration with the author, published in the collection A Russian Beauty and Other Stories, McGraw-Hill, 1973.

"You see," answered Falter, "in Indo-China, at the lottery drawings, the numbers are extracted by a monkey. I happen to be that monkey."

Of what would have been Nabokov's last novel in Russian, written in Paris in 1939-40, only the first two chapters survive, as "Ultima Thule" and "Solus Rex." An emotional artist relates to his recently-deceased wife a curious tale of Adam Falter, who has discovered the 'essence of things.'

The phrase Ultima Thule describes a distant territory or remote goal or ideal. Thule was the northernmost region of the habitable world to ancient Greek geographers, from the time of the fourth century Greek navigator Pytheas visited a northern island he called Thule, which has variously been identified as Iceland, Norway, or the Shetland Islands.

"The good reader . . . will certainly distinguish garbled English echoes of this last Russian novel of mine in Bend Sinister (1947) and, especially, Pale Fire (1962); I find those echoes a little annoying, but what really makes me regret its non-completion is that it promised to differ radically, by the quality of its coloration, by the amplitude of its style, by something undefinable about its powerful underflow, from all my other works in Russian."
VN, from the introduction in A Russian Beauty and Other Stories

WORKS

MARY | KING, QUEEN, KNAVE | THE DEFENSE
GLORY | LAUGHTER IN THE DARK | DESPAIR
THE GIFT | INVITATION TO A BEHEADING | THE EYE
THE ENCHANTER | THE REAL LIFE OF SEBASTIAN KNIGHT
BEND SINISTER | LOLITA | PNIN | PALE FIRE
ADA | TRANSPARENT THINGS | LOOK AT THE HARLEQUINS!
THE ORIGINAL OF LAURA