‘Signs and Symbols’ (1947) is one of the shortest of all Nabokov’s stories. The story centres on an elderly émigré couple whose son has become incurably deranged with an acute form of paranoia. On his birthday they try to visit him in hospital, but are dissuaded by the staff from doing so because he has recently attempted to commit suicide. They return home saddened by the harshness of their fate and the hopelessness of the situation. Finally the husband decides that no matter what the circumstances they must bring the boy home to live with them. Whilst they are discussing the details they are interrupted twice by telephone calls – both of which turn out to be wrong numbers. The story ends with the telephone ringing a third time.
Clik here to read the story on The New Yorker