RUSSIAN LIT

New Nabokov

You may think you know Vladimir Nabokov, but here’s a new volume of his previously-unseen translations of Russian poems by everyone from Pushkin to Lomonosov. And the poems reveal just as much about Nabokov as they do about their authors. Nabokov underwent a shift in sensibility around 1950. Before then he translated liberally, paying attention purely to pentameter and verse. While in the middle of translating Puskin’s famous Eugene Onegin, however, he realized it was more important to remain completely faithful to each word, and from then on translated only literally. Alexander Nemser at The New Republic calls Verses and Versions, the new book of translations, a “piecemeal chimera of a book,” which includes too many extraneous poems.