22 April 2009

Vladimir Nabokov

"Very few bilingual writers attempt perfect equality in their two languages," remarks Elizabeth Klosty Beaujour in her Alien Tongues: Bilingual Russian Writers of the "First" Emigration (1989, p. 51). Vladimir Nabokov, justly famous for his English novels, has received some multilingual criticism, but certainly not enough. The sentence "Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their nature, which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as 'nymphets'" sounds vaguely like the English of an earlier century, but it is, in fact, as critics that can read Russian have said in so many words, an attempt by Nabokov (in Lolita) to write in Russian using English words.

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