The Return of Chorb

The Return of Chorb

infobox Book |
name = The Return of Chorb
title_orig =
translator = 1. Gleb Struve, 2. Vladimir Nabokov

image_caption =
author = Vladimir Nabokov
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country =
language = Russian
series =
genre = Short story
publisher =
release_date = 1929
english_release_date = 1. 1932, 2. 1976
media_type =
pages =
isbn =
preceded_by =
followed_by =

The Return of Chorb is a short story by Vladimir Nabokov written in Russian under his pen name Vladimir Sirin in Berlin in 1925. In 1929 it became part of a collection of fifteen short stories and twenty-four poems also called Vozvrashchenie Chorba ("The Return of Chorb") in Russian by "V. Sirin".

English translation

After its publication in the Russian emigre press the story was translated into English by Gleb Struve as "The Return of Tchorb" and published in the Paris magazine "This Quarter" in 1932. More than four decades later Nabokov retranslated the story, as he found Struve's translation "not accurate enough and far removed from my present use of English", and incorporated the story in the collection "Details of a Sunset and Other Stories" in 1976. The two English translations are very different and represent an interesting study on Nabokov's theory of translation. [ [ Robert Meyer. Nabokov: A Case Study in the Art of Translation] , accessed 04-29-2008]

Plot summary

The Kellers are a bourgeois couple living in a smaller German town whose daughter has married the Russian emigre writer Chorb. The distrust between Chorb and his father-in-law is deepened when Chorb and his bride escape from the formality of their wedding to spent their first night at a local seedy hotel. On the honeymoon, the bride accidentally touches a live electric wire near Nice and dies. Chorb now returns to recreate her image by visiting the sites they had spend together and to tell her parents. Arriving in the evening he only finds the maid at the Keller's home who have gone to the opera to see Parsifal. Chorb does not want to break the news to her and tells her that his bride is ill and he will be back in the morning. He returns to the hotel to spend the night in the same room he had been with his wife. Unable to stay in the room alone, he pays a prostitute to stay with him. When the Kellers get home, they are too alarmed to wait for the morning and leave for the hotel. There, during the night, Chorb sees his wife in the prostitute, screams, and the terrified woman is about to leave: at this moment the Kellers arrive.


"The Return of Chorb", one of the earliest short stories of Nabokov, contains a complicated structure due to the non-linear narrative and the built-up to a confrontation between Chorb and Keller that is ultimately withheld from the reader. The unnamed bride of Chorb has a supernatural, quasi spectral presence in the story underlined by the matter of her death through electricity and the ghost-like appearance of the prostitute when Chorb sees in her his wife. [ [ Matt A. Christie. The White Line: on Nabokov's Female Characters] , accessed 04-30-2008]


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