It is indeed a tricky name. It is often misspelt, because the eye tends to regard the “a” of the first syllable as a misprint and then tries to restore the symmetrical sequence by triplicating the “o”- filling up the row of circles, so to speak, as in a game of crosses and naughts. No-bow-cough. How ugly, how wrong. Every author whose name is fairly often mentioned in periodicals develops a bird-watcher’s or caterpillar-picker’s knack when scanning an article. But in my case I always get caught by the word “nobody” when capitalized at the beginning of a sentence. As to pronunciation, Frenchmen of course say Nabokoff, with the accent on the last syllable. Englishmen say Nabokov, accent on the first, and Italians say Nabokov, accent in the middle, as Russians also do. Na-bo-kov. A heavy open “o” as in “Knickerbocker”. My New England ear is not offended by the long elegant middle “o” of Nabokov as delivered in American academies. The awful “Na-bah-kov” is a despicable gutterism. Well, you can make your choice now. Incidentallv, the first name is pronounced Vladeemer- rhyming with “redeemer”- not Vladimir rhyming with Faddimere (a place in England, I think).
Lydia Davis on Madame Bovary, Nabokov’s Marginalia, and Translation: [YouTube] In this video from the Center for the Art of Translation, author and translator Lydia Davis discusses how she used Nabokov’s margin notes from his edition of Madame Bovary to aid her own translation. She also discusses in-depth translation choices that she made. A full audio recording of this event can be hard on the Center’s website.
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.
“Mon enfant, ma soeur,
Songe à la douceur….”
New York City
Nabokov in true style responds as follows:
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.
Palo Alto, Calif.
Louise Jane Jopling (née Goode, later Rowe), by Sir John Everett
This is a fascinating post on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and a small history about a portrait of Louise Jopling used as a book cover for his work.
The dust-jacket for the new hardback Oxford World’s Classics edition of Anna Karenina reproduces Sir John Everett Millais’ portrait of Louise Jopling. The fact that this is an English painting of an English woman already mitigates against identifying her too closely with Anna, but this particular portrait is an inspired choice for other reasons, as I began to understand when I researched its history. To begin with, it was painted in 1879, just one year after Anna Karenina was first published as a complete novel. And the meticulous notes compiled by Vladimir Nabokov which anchor the events of the narrative between 1872 and 1876 also enable us to infer that the fictional Anna Karenina was about the same age as the real-life Louise Jopling, who was 36 when she sat for Millais. Their very different life paths, meanwhile, throw an interesting light on the theme at the centre of Tolstoy’s novel: the predicament of women.