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The University Poem

Vladimir Nabokov, translated by Dmitri Nabokov: ‘The University Poem’, 7 June 2012

... it to freeze still, perceive the delicate rotation of the slightly tilted earth. Translated by ...

The event that doesn’t occur

Michael Wood, 4 April 1985

The Man from the USSR, and Other Plays 
by Vladimir Nabokov, translated by Dmitri Nabokov.
Weidenfeld, 342 pp., £20, February 1985, 0 297 78596 6
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... Since his death in 1977, Nabokov has made three literary appearances: rather plodding affairs for such a gifted ghost, even allowing for their modest academic occasions and for the fact that the published texts (Lectures on Literature, Lectures on Russian Literature, Lectures on Don Quixote) represent scripts and drafts rather than the things themselves ...

Protonymphet

Frank Kermode, 5 February 1987

TheEnchanter 
by Vladimir Nabokov, translated by Dmitri Nabokov.
Picador, 127 pp., £8.95, January 1987, 0 330 29666 3
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... also known as The Magician, was well attested, and its relation to Lolita was established by Nabokov himself. In his essay ‘On a book entitled Lolita’, first published in 1957, and thereafter appended to the novel, he referred to this opusculum of 1939 as the product of ‘the first little throb of Lolita’, and added that its ‘anonymous ...

Icicles by Cynthia

Clarence Brown, 21 March 1996

The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov 
edited by Dmitri Nabokov.
Knopf, 659 pp., $35, October 1995, 0 394 58615 8
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... Dostoevsky, Faulkner and (horrified as he would be to find himself with this lot) Vladimir Nabokov were novelists. If your destiny lies in one form, the other is seldom hospitable. O’Connor’s short fiction was the inspired work of one born to the genre; her novels seem grimly willed achievements, determined to last 300 pages or die trying. The ...

Rhino-Breeder

John Sturrock, 24 May 1990

Vladimir NabokovSelected Letters 1940-1977 
edited by Dmitri Nabokov and Matthew Bruccoli.
Weidenfeld, 582 pp., £29.95, February 1990, 0 297 81034 0
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... Nabokov liked to write standing up (‘Piles,’ he told a fellow-teacher at Cornell, who thought it might be some short cut to creativity), and his letters reflect that inflexible posture, being all backbone and no upholstery. But prize them we must, for bringing us this otherwise impregnably stylish man’s first, unscripted thoughts; letters at least he wrote and sent, without – that we hear of – asking for them back, to groom them for permanent annexation to his oeuvre ...

Dear Poochums

Michael Wood: Letters to Véra, 22 October 2014

Letters to Véra 
by Vladimir Nabokov, edited and translated by Olga Voronina and Brian Boyd.
Penguin, 798 pp., £30, September 2014, 978 0 14 119223 9
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... was confusion in the Oblonskys’ house.’ Very promising. Throughout his life Vladimir Nabokov was keen to refute all three of these claims: that happiness is monotonous, that happy families are indistinguishable and that only unhappiness provides narrative. He begins his novel Ada, for example, with a bumbling comic inversion of Tolstoy’s ...

Vlad the Impaler

Inga Clendinnen: Hairy Humbert, 10 August 2000

Nabokov’s Butterflies: Unpublished and Uncollected Writings 
edited by Brian Boyd and Michael Pyle.
Allen Lane, 783 pp., £25, March 2000, 0 7139 9380 4
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Nabokov’s Blues: The Scientific Odyssey of a Literary Genius 
by Kurt Johnson and Steve Coates.
Zoland, 372 pp., £18, October 1999, 1 58195 009 8
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... Ever since Lolita ignited the American literary scene in the late 1950s Vladimir Nabokov has been the most famous lepidopterist in the world – indeed, the only one most of us have ever heard of. The covers of books written about him quiver with these interesting insects; even the name ‘Nab-o-koV’, properly spread, seems to have a butterfly look to it ...

Very Nasty

John Sutherland, 21 May 1987

VN: The Life and Art of Vladimir Nabokov 
by Andrew Field.
Macdonald, 417 pp., £14.95, April 1987, 0 356 14234 5
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... Field’s VN: The Life and Art of Vladimir Nabokov is a biography which can make one wonder what biography is all about. On the face of it, the book marks the end of a tempestuous literary love affair. As his publishers proclaim, Field has devoted his professional life to the study of Nabokov ...

Perfectly Human

Jenny Diski: Lillie Langtry and Mrs Vladimir Nabokov, 1 July 1999

Lillie Langtry: Manners, Masks and Morals 
by Laura Beatty.
Chatto, 336 pp., £20, March 1999, 1 85619 513 9
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Véra (Mrs Vladimir Nabokov): Portrait of a Marriage 
by Stacy Schiff.
Random House, 456 pp., $27.95, April 1999, 0 679 44790 3
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... displaced, canny women with a powerful sense of their own purpose. For Stacy Schiff, the Véra Nabokov she introduces is ‘the figure in the carpet ... Hers was a life lived in the margins, but then as Nabokov teaches us – sometimes the commentary is the story.’ Laura Beatty, however (including the word ...
The Nabokov-Wilson Letters, 1940-1971 
edited by Simon Karlinsky.
Weidenfeld, 346 pp., £12.50, October 1979, 0 297 77580 4
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Vladimir NabokovA Tribute 
edited by Peter Quennell.
Weidenfeld, 139 pp., £6.95
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... offer more than the usual pleasure to be had from eavesdropping on the talk of eminent writers. Nabokov and Wilson had a few specific common interests, the most important of which was a passion for language as the stuff of literature: but in temperament and formation they were almost wholly different. ‘Literature’ was, as an idea, venerated by both ...

Inner Mongolia

Tony Wood: Victor Pelevin, 10 June 1999

The Life of Insects 
by Victor Pelevin, translated by Andrew Bromfield.
Faber, 176 pp., £6.99, April 1999, 0 571 19405 2
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The Clay Machine-Gun 
by Victor Pelevin, translated by Andrew Bromfield.
Faber, 335 pp., £9.99, April 1999, 0 571 19406 0
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A Werewolf Problem in Central Russia and Other Stories 
by Victor Pelevin, translated by Andrew Bromfield.
Harbord, 191 pp., £9.99, May 1999, 1 899414 35 5
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... results goes without saying. Thus Voyd’s psychiatrist, Timur Timurovich, makes a reference to Nabokov, which prompts Voyd to ask: ‘Excuse me ... but which Nabokov are you talking about? The leader of the Constitutional Democrats?’   Timur Timurovich smiled with emphatic politeness. ‘No,’ he said, ‘his ...

Alexander Blok’s Beautiful Lady

T.J. Binyon, 7 August 1980

The Life of Aleksandr Blok: Vol. 1: ‘The Distant Thunder 1880-1908’ 
by Avril Pyman.
Oxford, 359 pp., £12.50, January 1979, 0 19 211714 9
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... symbols, for another, rather as was the case – to take a work of a very different kind – when Nabokov wrote on Gogol. Nevertheless, it is difficult to believe that this biography can be superseded: it stands as a fitting monument to the greatest Russian poet of his generation, one of ‘the children’, as he wrote, ‘of Russia’s terrible ...

One Exceptional Figure Stood Out

Perry Anderson: Dmitri Furman, 29 July 2015

... reluctant to be separated from the land of their language, generally remained – Bunin, Aldanov, Nabokov were the exceptions, Akhmatova, Mandelstam, Pasternak the rule; not to speak of those who sided with the revolution (Platonov, Babel, Mayakovsky) – the human sciences were badly affected. Of those who stayed, the Formalists and their kin survived ...

Russia’s Managed Democracy

Perry Anderson: Why Putin?, 25 January 2007

... most fashionable masters – but such diverse figures as Chernyshevsky, Leskov, Bely, Zamiatin, Nabokov, Platonov and others. What is new in the current versions of this tradition is their cocktail of heterogeneous genres and tropes of an alternative reality, which seeks to maximise provocation and dépaysement. But such formal ingenuity, however ...

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