On what would have been Vladimir
Nabokov's 110th birthday, TNR has compiled a selection of the literary
the great novelist penned for the magazine between 1940 and 1944, as
well as 25 reviews of Nabokov's own work from our archives. Below are three pieces: 1) Nabokov's rules for perfect translation; 2) John Updike's 1964 review of Nabokov's The Defense; 3) Clarence Brown's original review of Lolita. But be sure to check out our whole Nabokov archive; there's much to mine within.
Art of Translation, by Vladimir Nabokov (1941) "Three grades of evil can be discerned in the queer
world of verbal transmigration. The first, and lesser one, comprises obvious
errors due to ignorance or misguided knowledge. This is mere human frailty and thus excusable. The next step to Hell is
taken by the translator who intentionally skips words or passages that
he does not bother to understand or that might seem obscure or obscene
to vaguely imagined readers; he accepts the blank look that his
dictionary gives him without any qualms; or subjects scholarship to
primness: he is as ready to know less than the author as he is to think
he knows better. The third, and worst, degree of turpitude is reached
when a masterpiece is planished and patted into such a shape, vilely
beautified in such a fashion as to conform to the notions and
prejudices of a given public. This is a crime, to be punished by the
stocks as plagiarists were in the shoebuckle days ... "
John Updike (1964) "One hesitates to call him an 'American writer'; the phrase
fetches to mind Norman Mailer and James Jones and other homegrown cabbages
loyally mistaken for roses. Say, rather, that Vladimir Nabokov distinctly seems
to be the best writer of English prose at present holding American citizenship ...
Little Girl Migrates, by Clarence Brown (1958) "Vladimir Nabokov, author of the
Russian translation of Alice in Wonderland, has now provided his native
literature with another little girl, his own Lolita ... "