In sentimental retrospect, the Russian reader of the past seems to me to be as much of a model for readers as Russian writers were models for writers in other tongues. He would start on his charmed career at a most tender age and lose his heart to Tolstoy or Chekhov when still in the nursery and nurse would try to take away Anna Karenin and would say: Oh, come, let me tell it to you in my own words (Day-ka, ya tebe rasskazhu svoimi slovami [slovo-word]). That is how the good reader learned to beware of translators of condensed masterpieces, of idiotic movies about the brothers Karenins, and of all other ways of toadying to the lazy and of quartering the great.

And to sum up, I would like to stress once more, Let us not look for the soul of Russia in the Russian novel: let us look for the individual genius. Look at the masterpiece, and not at the frame–and not at the faces of other people looking at the frame.

“Russian Writers, Censors, and Readers,” Lectures on Russian Literature, Vladimir Nabokov

I find more to disagree with in Nabokov’s critical work than to agree with, and his tone is often petulant verging on offensive. I like him only as a novelist, almost never as a critic or translator. But when he’s right, he’s right.

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