ABSTRACT

EUGENE ONEGIN Strange as it may seem, no other book by Nabokov, with the exception of Lolita, has caused such a row as his most sedate, most scholarly and timeconsuming project-the annotated translation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, the gem and pride of Russian literature. Nabokov’s chosen mode of transla­ tion, in which he sacrificed everything to his ideal ofliteralism-“every formal element. . . elegance, euphony, clarity, good taste, modern usage, and even grammar” (I, x)1; the elephantine size and often unscholarly, playful tone ofhis commentary-a bizarre mixture of wonderful insights and redundant ped­ antry, of ingenious argumentation and opinionated judgments, of meticulous research and idiosyncratic fictions; the heated, sometimes vicious controversy after its first publication in 1964 with a spectacular exchange of punches and counterpunches between the author and his longtime friend Edmund Wil­ son2-all this enhanced Nabokov’s reputation as a haughty aristocratic elitist who would go to any lengths to express his aversion and contempt for the “average reader,” even at the expense of Pushkin.