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Posts Tagged ‘Nabokov

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself”*…

 

Did you ever wonder where you came from? That is the stuff that’s inside your body like your bones, organs, muscles…etc.  All of these things are made of various molecules and atoms. But where did these little ingredients come from? And how were they made?…

Find the answer at “How much of the human body is made up of stardust?

* Carl Sagan

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As we hum along with Hoagy Carmichael, we might recall that it was on this date in 1958 that the first American edition of Vladimir Nabakov’s Lolita was released.  Finished in 1953, Nabakov was turned down by publishers ranging from Simon & Schuster to New Directions, all concerned about its subject matter.  Nabakov turned to Maurice Girodias and his Olympia Press, and published in France in 1955.  Though it received almost no critical attention on release, Graham Greene called in “one of the three best novels of 1955” in a year-end wrap-up published in the Sunday Times— provoking a response in the Sunday Express that the novel was one “one of the filthiest” ever.  Surprisingly to many, the novel’s American launch elicited no official response.  But it registered hugely with the reading public: it went into a third printing within days and became the first novel since Gone with the Wind to sell 100,000 copies in its first three weeks.  Lolita is included on Time‘s “List of the 100 Best Novels in the English language from 1923 to 2005,” and it is fourth on the Modern Library’s 1998 “List of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century.”

Cover and half-title page of a presentation copy of the first American edition, inscribed by Nabokov to his wife, Vera ( “Verina verae Nab Aug. 1958 Ithaca”) and embellished with a delicately-rendered butterfly.

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Written by LW

August 18, 2014 at 1:01 am

Speak, Memory…

Proof that there actually was a “Golden Age of Television”:  Vladimir Nabokov (above, left) and Lionel Trilling (right) appearing together in 1958 on the CBC’s Close Up, discussing Lolita.

Part one of the segment is here; part two, here.

As Thomas McGrath observes in Dangerous Minds,

Nabokov himself, shuffling his famous index cards (he insisted upon preparing his answers in advance, and reading them aloud), was in the midst of a very rich vein of form indeed, one that resulted not only in Lolita but also Pnin and Pale Fire. He is bright-eyed, ironical, eccentric, amusing and wholly indifferent to the kind of impression his controversial masterpiece (which has since sold more than fifty million copies) was making to 1950s America.

And as for those index cards, Paris Review explains

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As we settle down on the heels of Banned Books Week, we might recall that it was on this date in 1946 that the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky premiered Aaron Copland’s third and final symphony– known ever since, as Leonard Bernstein put it, as “the epitome of a decades-long search by many composers for a distinctly American music.”

Copland’s Third Symphony is in the traditional format (four movements; second movement, scherzo; third movement, adagio), and, at 40 minutes, is his longest orchestral composition.  He wrote it explicitly with Koussevitzky in mind– and succeeded mightily, as the conductor called the the work “simply the greatest American symphony ever written.”

Aaron Copland

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Written by LW

October 18, 2012 at 1:01 am

The art of failure*…

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From Matador Networks, “20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words from Around the World,” from…

1. Toska
Russian – Vladimir Nabokov describes it best: “No single word in English renders all the shades of toska. At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause. At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning. In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness. At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.”

to…

20. Saudade
Portuguese – One of the most beautiful of all words, translatable or not, this word “refers to the feeling of longing for something or someone that you love and which is lost.”  Fado music, a type of mournful singing, relates to saudade. (Altalang.com)

* “Translation is the art of failure.” – Umberto Eco

As we console ourselves that, as Robert Frost observed, “poetry is what gets lost in translation,” we might recall that Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky, author of Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamozov, and a master– perhaps the master– of “toska,” was born on this date in 1821 (in the “old style” calendar, adjusted to January 1 on the Julian calendar; his birth date is November 11 on the unadjusted Russian version of the Gregorian calendar.)

Dostoyevsky (source)

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