BEND SINISTER by Vladimir Nabokov


A few days ago, I came downstairs and Alice was sitting by the front door putting on her shoes. I said, Where’s Max? and she said, He went out. I didn’t believe her at first, laughed, and said, Let’s go looking for him. I said, Hey Max, where are you?

No answer. I said it again a bit louder.

There was a knock at the door. I thought it was Max, so I answered it. It was a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I said, Hey, now’s not a good time. I’m not sure where my son is. Have you seen a little boy on the street? They shook their heads, and I said, Sorry, bye!

I looked through the house, but couldn’t find him. I started yelling, Max! hey Max! But still nothing. I looked in the backyard. I went back to Alice, who was upset that she couldn’t go outside too. I said, Alice, did you see Max go outside? She nodded. I put on my shoes. I grabbed Alice and headed outside, starting to get pretty worried.

I looked up and down the street. I looked in the back yard and on both sides of the house. I ran back inside, this time carrying Alice through the house, shouting for Max. Still nothing.

I went over to our neighbor’s house, and rang her doorbell. She answered the door and said, I was just getting a tan and… and I interrupted her, saying, I don’t know where Max is. Alice said he went out the front door. I’ve looked in the house, but I don’t know where he’s at. As I was talking to her, another neighborhood friend walked by with her three kids. I said, If you see Max, would you tell him to come home pleae? I don’t know where he is.

My neighbor pretty quickly started running up the street. I saw her talking to some people on the next block. I ran into another neighbor coming out of his house. I filled him in, dropped Alice off with his wife and son, and he loaned me his car to drive around looking for Max. He drove around in his other car.

By this point, I had called Sarah about five times, but couldn’t get through.

After driving around for about ten minutes, I thought that Max might have headed back home. I pulled up, and there Max was, standing on the front porch. He had been hiding behind the couch the whole time.

All that is to say that, there were a few pages in BEND SINISTER that perfectly captured my experience as I tried to keep terror at bay and do the practical things that needed to be done to look for Max. In the book, a father comes to believe that his son has been lost/taken from him. Powerful stuff.

It’s a strong book, and hones in on the true danger of a despotic, tyrannical system of governance. Those in power are susceptible to all the human frailties we all share: greed, jealousy, vengeance, rage, etc. They simply have a stronger platform from which to exert those forces.