Robert Sinton

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Lost in Translation: Proust and Scott Moncrieff

500 years ago this month, a strange mania seized the city of Strasbourg. Citizens by the hundreds became compelled to dance, seemingly for no reason …

A Questionnaire for the Immodest and Curious: Clever Puzzles, Riddles, and Word Games from Nabokov’s Love Letters to His Wife

“Kisses, my love, from your eyebrows down to your knees and back.”<p>Despite his enormous intellectual and creative achievements, <b>Vladimir Nabokov</b> (April 22, 1899–July 2, 1977) considered one private event the most significant of his life: meeting 21-year-old Véra Slonim in 1923. For the remaining …

Why an Imperfect Version of Proust is a Classic in English

The art of translation is usually a semi-invisible one, and is generally thought better for being so. A few translators’ names are familiar to the amateur reader—we know about Chapman’s Homer, through Keats, and Richard Wilbur’s Molière is part of the modern American theatre—but mostly translators …

Nabokov and the Movies

The axiom that great novels make bad movie adaptations has not been entirely true for Vladimir Nabokov, whose books depend to a surprising degree on plot-heavy narratives (not to say cravenly pulpy story lines) that lend themselves well to the screen. Take “Lolita_,”_ with its tale of the Humbert …

How Nabokov Retranslated “Laughter in the Dark”

At the age of thirty-one, living as a penniless exile in Berlin, Vladimir Nabokov composed, in Russian, a novel called "Camera Obscura," which he published serially in an émigré journal in 1930. Five years later, the book was translated into English by a woman named Winifred Roy, for the British …

Literature

A Lolitigation Lament: Nabokov on Censorship and Solidarity

<b>Vladimir Nabokov</b> (April 22, 1899–July 2, 1977) was a man of strong opinions — whether about the necessary qualities of a great storyteller or the nature of inspiration or the attributes of a good reader — but nowhere more so than when it came to defending his greatest work against censorship.<p>When</i> …

The Sympathetic Spy Downstairs

Here’s a thought experiment for those of us who live in cities and spend far too much mental energy on our neighbors: Let’s say that an apartment is opening up in your building, one floor below yours, and by some miraculous breach of the urban space-time continuum, you’re allowed to pick the new …

Vladimir Nabokov on Writing, Reading, and the Three Qualities a Great Storyteller Must Have

<i>“Often the object of a desire, when desire is transformed into hope, becomes more real than reality itself,”</i> Umberto Eco observed in his magnificent atlas of imaginary places. Indeed, our capacity for self-delusion is one of the most inescapable fundamentals of the human condition, and nowhere do …

In Search of a Lost Screenplay: When Pinter Adapted Proust

If one were to create a stylistic spectrum of great writers in the twentieth century, Harold Pinter and Marcel Proust would likely wind up on opposite ends of it. In Pinter, the meaning lies in what is <i>not</i> said, with the emotional events occurring in those famous pauses that he inserted so liberally …

A Staged Reading of Pinter's The Proust Screenplay at 92Y

By Christopher Richards January 23, 2014<p>Photo © 2014 Nancy Crampton<p><i>Yellow screen. Sound of a garden gate bell.</i>• <i><br>Open countryside, a line of trees, seen from a railway carriage. The train is still. No sound. Quick fade out.</i>• <i><br>Momentary yellow screen.</i>• <i><br>The sea, seen from a high window, a towel hanging on a</i> …

Proust’s Previously Unknown Illustrated Poems

In recent decades, literary history has unearthed previously unknown — and, often, unexpected — poems by such prose icons as Vonnegut, Bradbury, Joyce, and Twain. But even those most deeply acquainted with his work might be surprised that between the ages of seventeen and fifty, <b>Marcel Proust</b> (July …

Moleskine Celebrates 100 Years of Swann’s Way: Illustrated Portraits of Ira Glass, Rick Moody, and Others Reading Proust

<i>“Always try to keep a patch of sky above your life,”</i> <b>Marcel Proust</b> wrote in <b>Swann’s Way</b> (<i>public library</i>; <i>free ebook</i>) — the first volume of his legendary magnum opus <b>In Search of Lost Time</b> — published on November 14, 1913. A city-wide “nomadic reading” by the French Embassy in New York is celebrating …

Vladimir Nabokov on What Makes a Good Reader

<i>“All attempts at gaining literary polish must begin with judicious reading,”</i> H.P. Lovecraft advised aspiring writers. We’ve already seen that reading is a learned skill and an optimizable technique, and that non-reading is as important an intellectual choice as reading itself, so it follows that …

Proust, Lost in Translation

The first volume of Marcel Proust’s <i>In Search of Lost Time: Swann’s Way</i> was published almost exactly a hundred years ago. Its opening lines make one thing inescapably apparent: Proust’s style is inimitable; there is much more to it than long sentences, pauses for reminiscence and brittle cookie …

Nabokov and Homeland Security: How Russia’s Most Revered Literary Émigré Became an American

<b>Vladimir Nabokov</b> (April 22, 1899–July 2, 1977) — beloved author, butterfly-lover, no-bullshit lecturer, hater of clichés, man of strong opinions — endures as Russia’s most revered literary émigré export. While his journey to cultural acclaim in America was in many ways a story of hope, it was also …

The Thrill of Proust’s Handwriting

The first time I saw Proust’s bedroom, in the Musée Carnavalet, in Paris—a tiny tableau cordoned off by a chain, lined in cork, and crammed with undistinguished, illogically placed furniture—I was struck more than anything by the modesty of the bed. Proust famously preferred to write in bed, and, …