Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

The Annotated Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov My rating: 4 of 5 stars Lolita, if you don't know, is a novel cast in the form of a murderer's confession. The self-named Humbert Humbert, a European scion of a wealthy Riviera hotel owner, tells of his erotic obsession with certain young girls who seem to him daemonic … Continue reading Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Vladimir Nabokov, The Enchanter

The Enchanter by Vladimir Nabokov My rating: 3 of 5 stars VN's first pass at the Lolita subject matter, The Enchanter was written in 1939—making it one of the author's last works composed in Russian—but not published until 1986, in this translation by Dmitri Nabokov, who details the novella's origin and complex textual history in … Continue reading Vladimir Nabokov, The Enchanter

Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin

Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin My rating: 5 of 5 stars Well, this is a fun book. So fun, in fact, that I wonder why people go on about the "Pushkin problem"—the supposed problem that non-Russian readers do not understand the esteem in which the poet is held by Russians, especially as compared to other … Continue reading Alexander Pushkin, Eugene Onegin

Vladimir Nabokov, Despair

Despair by Vladimir Nabokov My rating: 3 of 5 stars Despair, Nabokov's seventh novel, written in Russian, dates from the mid-1930s (begun in 1932, serialized in 1934, published as a book in 1936, translated into English by the author in 1937); Nabokov revised the translation—and, as he notes in his preface, the book itself—for its … Continue reading Vladimir Nabokov, Despair

In Defense of Pevear and Volokhonsky

Janet Malcolm contributes the latest polemic against Richard Pevear and Linda Volokhonsky (hereafter P&V), the famed husband-and-wife translators of the Russian classics, whose preeminence in their field is now being challenged by a number of critics. I have read the previous arguments with interest (for instance, by Gary Saul Morson and Helen Andrews), but they … Continue reading In Defense of Pevear and Volokhonsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky, A Gentle Creature and Other Stories

A Gentle Creature and Other Stories by Fyodor Dostoyevsky My rating: 4 of 5 stars This little book, translated by Alan Myers, collects three of Dostoevsky’s short works on the subject of the "dreamer"—one early piece, the classic 1848 novella "White Nights," and two pieces of the 1870s, first published in D.’s Diary of a … Continue reading Fyodor Dostoevsky, A Gentle Creature and Other Stories

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky My rating: 5 of 5 stars A very, very strange novel. In her review of David McDuff's 2004 translation of The Idiot (I myself read the 2002 Pevear and Volokhonsky version), the novelist A. S. Byatt describes the difficult circumstances of its composition: The writing and publication of the novel … Continue reading Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot

George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism

Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism by George Steiner My rating: 5 of 5 stars This is a superb book. It abounds in literary-historical insight; it goes to the heart of these authors' achievements. The title is a bit misleading in that it's not really about deciding whether Tolstoy or Dostoevsky is … Continue reading George Steiner, Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism

Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons

Demons by Fyodor Dostoyevsky My rating: 5 of 5 stars While this story of nihilist-socialist radicals run amok in provincial Russia is touted as Dostoevsky's political novel, his pamphlet novel, there's surprisingly little substantial ideological discussion or debate. Dostoevsky does send up the intellectual left in terms that remain amusingly relevant, from its notorious circular-firing-squad … Continue reading Fyodor Dostoevsky, Demons

Notes on Anna Karenina (2012)

To get evaluation out of the way, I'll say I liked it.  Of course I liked it!  It was more or less an entertainment, a revel for the bookish.  Target audience: Rory Gilmore.  Who can resist! There are really two twists to Anna Karenina. First is Joe Wright's conceit of aristocratic social life as theater.  … Continue reading Notes on Anna Karenina (2012)