The threads that connect the first two dozen Russian-language stories of Vladimir Nabokov selected here are different. The musical theme sets the tone of the volume, and the melody of the rain is heard, interrupted by musical pauses. Next are the topics of chance, the role of fate and deceptive happiness, the writing, the mystified authorship, the relationships with criticism and the reader.
Sounds is a short story originally written in Russian in September 1923. In the story, the narrator recounts to an old flame a date they once had, whilst her husband was away, where they visited a friend, Pal Palych, in the country. From the very beginning, it is revealed that the narrator is an aesthetic individual, prone to epiphanies. For him, the world seems "homogonous, congruent, bound by the laws of harmony". Whereas the narrator is prone to communicate his epiphanies in the language of sound, the woman is "habitually untalkative". When the narrator must venture back to Palych's house to retrieve his date's cigarette-holder, he finds his friend bleary eyed and suggests that he get outside more. Towards the end, the woman tells the narrator that she'd leave her husband to be with him. The reader by now already suspects that something is up, as the narrator has revealed that he loves not only her, but the entire world: "it was not you alone who were my lover but the entire earth". In the end, the narrator rides his bicycle home, stopping along the way to sit on a park bench where he notices a woman he plans to talk to, as well as seeing Palych fishing.