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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 ...

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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... by eight thousand from the pen of the translator, and by blank pages. The existence of The Enchanter, 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 ...

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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... that is either long or short. Chekhov, Borges, Flannery O’Connor, Raymond Carver were short-story writers. 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 ...

The University Poem

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

7 June 2012
... you, where moth and rust do not corrupt, cherishing each instant, blessing each motion, do not allow it to freeze still, perceive the delicate rotation of the slightly tilted earth. Translated by DmitriNabokov ...

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 ...

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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... is that happy families are not much use to a novelist, and the next sentence confirms this view. ‘All 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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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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... as if getting the biographer you deserve post-mortem is pretty much pot luck. Here are two beautiful, 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 ...
6 December 1979
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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... These letters are a partial record of a literary friendship; and they 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 ...

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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... and in the present with no awareness that eighty-odd years have elapsed. That this often has comic 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 ...
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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... attuned to her subject; that we are merely exchanging one kind of impressionism, or one set of 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 ...

One Exceptional Figure Stood Out

Perry Anderson: Dmitri​ Furman

29 July 2015
... the enormous loss they were inflicting on the country or their cause by doing so. If writers, 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 ...

Russia’s Managed Democracy

Perry Anderson: Why Putin?

25 January 2007
... supernatural and the utopian, in a line that includes not only Gogol and Bulgakov – presently the two 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 dé ...

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