NABOKV-L post 0010967, Tue, 25 Jan 2005 09:39:59 -0800

a sliver of light in-between two eternities of darkness."

WOLFGANG NIESIELSKI Sliver of light line terrorizes the soul
Ledger Dispatch, CA - 21 hours ago
The horrific line was something like "your life is just The writer was Vladimir Nabokov, and come to ...

Ledger Dispatch

Posted on Thu, Jan. 20, 2005

WOLFGANG NIESIELSKI Sliver of light line terrorizes the soul

A FEW DAYS AGO while I was browsing in a local book store, I came across a line in a book that shook the entire foundation of my inner essence, introducing such terror to my soul that it threatened to remove any possibility of peaceful sleep for the rest of my days, besides adding to my fear of heights, which means, in my case, that anything above bed-level is a challenge.

The horrific line was something like "your life is just a sliver of light in-between two eternities of darkness." The writer was Vladimir Nabokov, and come to think of it, my use of the expression "rest of my days" above has just now restarted the terror, which generates my digital quivering, and seems to affect my ability to circle and unearth appropriate letters on my keyboard.

All religious ruminations aside, even though one's relationship with the Divine might provide tranquillity and contentment as a shock-absorber for what happens during the two periods of eternal darkness, that "sliver of light scenario" doesn't really provide much source for contentment.

Looking at the average person's weary life, inundated with overtime, underpay, taxes and nothing on TV, one could easily imagine that that little bit of light might just represent a crack in a frying pan. In this case, not only is the minuteness of the gap disturbing, but the origin of light presents an even more terrifying idea. Where there is light, there is fire. No wonder Nabokov's work is held in higher, awe-inspiring esteem than any movie in the "Friday the 13th" series. Although the bloodthirsty slashers might startle the viewers in the darkness of the theater, once we encounter the light in the lobby, we are completely at ease in knowing there are no towering flames behind the curtains to worry about.

Perhaps the dark, damp, icy landscape of Russia, depriving its inhabitants of spirit-warming sunshine, causes Slavic writers to induce the same kind of dread into their readers as they experience themselves when the sun's rays refuse to venture much farther north than a few degrees from the equator for a large part of the year.

No matter the root of Vladimir's pitiless mind, he almost succeeds in convincing me now that I am staring at a "mere crack of light" and eternal nothingness afterward. Even if I pry my "sliver" of light open a bit more, could I ever hope for more than a "gash"? I doubt if I could create a "gaping hole," although I try to eat my broccoli regularly and wear a seat belt.

What happens if, within this "tiny sliver," I am already floating chillingly close toward the opposite edge?

I knew a guy once who, while occupying his tender late teens, proclaimed that age "30" was so far removed that he wouldn't have to even worry about it -- if ever. In fact, he was filled with such confidence of age-immunity that -- despite being warned -- he ridiculed his friends who had a few years on him, as "old," even going so far as displaying a cane and mockingly limping a few steps while roaring with laughter. I haven't seen him in quite some time, but unless he was able to prevent the countdown every New Year, I assume he is now probably so busy fighting off middle age that he might even miss the beginning of old age.

And this may well be the crux of our problem. Since space equals time, the further we flounder around aimlessly inside our little lit-up space, the faster we float toward "the edges." It seems to make sense to either get busy and finance science to build some kind of device capable of blowing a sizable crater into this frying pan "sliver" or we figure out how to fully experience and live each and every millimeter within the perimeters given to us. And then perhaps we might even face reading the gloomy material of grumpy and glum, middle-aged Russian writers.

A native of Germany, Wolfgang Niesielski of Antioch is a member of the East County Writers Group. Reach him at