This is Nabokov's first novel (Mashenka), more properly novella, which is best read for its germinal indications of the later works to follow: particularly the theme of the emigre in transition which will be so triumphantly realized in another habitat, Pnin; and the retrospective refrains of Speak, Memory. Briefly here in Berlin, in the gracelessly German, heavy, dusty pension of Frau Dorn, a number of exiles have rooms: a brace of ballet-dancer homosexuals; an aging, failing poet; one Alfyorov who within a few days will be joined by the pretty wife he married before he emigrated. And Ganin, who recognizes from a snapshot that Mary was his first romance. This occasions the "eternal return" through memory to a time when tender was the night and gentle the tryst (the inset here with its mellifluous lyricism contrasts with the glumly enclosed existence in the pension). Ganin thinks of going to meet Mary and spiriting her away--of course he doesn't. . . . The story is a slight thing at best--a frail straw in the wind.