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14 November 2018

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Book Review

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Verses and Versions

It is not enough that Vladimir Nabokov was one of the most gifted and prolific prose stylists of the 20th century, that he was a supremely talented chess player and a recognized expert in lepidoptery. He also was an outstanding translator of poetry and prose, his sensual multi-linguality an endless source of admiration and envy.

This collection of Nabokov’s translations of Russian poetic masterpieces into English was a half-century in the making, pursued and put off multiple times during the writer’s lifetime. It is finally published here with editing by Brian Boyd and Stanislav Shvabrin, with additional Nabokovian texts of criticism and, most notably, with Nabokov’s influential (and, for some, infuriating) ruminations on the art of translation. As an introduction to the crowning heights of Russian verse, this work is invaluable. As a testimony to Vladimir Nabokov’s skill as a translator and literary critic it is indispensable.

— Paul E. Richardson

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Reviewed in Russian Life: Mar/Apr 2009