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Nabokov's Perfect, Cheeky Response to a Reader Who Tried to Correct Him
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Nabokov's Perfect, Cheeky Response to a Reader Who Tried to Correct Him

In which Vladimir Nabokov schools us all in the art of gracefully, wittily responding to trollish readers who want to correct our writing. 

To mark its 100th anniversary, The New Republic is republishing a collection of its most memorable articles. This week's theme: Correspondence.

This piece originally appeared in The New Republic on September 22, 1941.

Sir: Mr. Nabokov’s August 4 essay, “The Art of Translation,” contains a beautiful example of the Art of Misquotation.

He refers to a line from “L’Invitation au Voyage” as “Mon amie, ma soeur, connais-tu la douceur….” Poor Baudelaire! The Russian translator didn’t do so badly.

Baudelaire wrote:

Mon enfant, ma soeur,

Songe à la douceur….”

E.W. Nash

New York City 

 

Sir: I am sorry that a poor memory led me to make a “friend” of that child; but Mr. Nash is quite wrong in assuming that by correcting my quotation he has baudelairized the Russian version: that little joy-ride goes on undisturbed.

Vladimir Nabokov

Palo Alto, Calif.

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