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Reviews Vladimir E. Alexandrov. The Garland Companion to Vladimir Nabokov. New York: Garland, 19.95. 798 pp. Review by Jane Grayson, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University of London. Time and the approaching millennium are lending weight to Nabokov studies as now mis Companion takes its place on "N" row alongside the big Bs of Bibliography and Biography. It is a daunting undertaking to engage forty-two scholars from nine countries and direct their energies into providing encyclopaedic coverage of all Nabokov's work and all topics deemed crucial for an understanding of him. It is a task which Professor Alexandrov has executed with consummate skill. He has assembled a splendid team and if some of us this side of the Atlantic feel that Western Europe is a trifle underrepresented (I make it just five entries out of a total of seventy-four) then, after all, we cannot expect a long-distance editor to be either omnivorous or omniscient, and it jolly well serves us right for not doing more to raise our profile. But neither is it an easy task for a reviewer to assess an enterprise as large as this in limited space without causing unnecessary and unwanted offence through simply not being able to give every contributor his or her due. And so, given the impossibility of naming everyone, I am decided to name no names at all, comforted by the consideration that readers of a specialist journal such as this can be relied upon to be sufficiently knowledgable and discerning to assess the merits of the individual entries for themselves without my bringing my own predispositions and prejudices to bear. How can we expect that a book such as will be used? For reference, certainly, and, no doubt, for browsing, though, weighing in at just over two and three quarter pounds (exactly the same weight as my Kobbê's Complete Opera Book, I note), it is an unlikely candidate for bedtime reading. We must anticipate, too, that this might just be the one work of criticism that someone embarking on the serious study of Nabokov might be recommended to consult or purchase. How successfully then does it fulfil the potential role of the authorized version of Nabokov scholarship for some years to come? How up to the mark is it, how complete, how balanced and unbiased, how acute, how well organized and accessible? It is, first of all, an extremely well made and serviceable artifact: good paper, sturdy cover, strong binding. These are not negligible considerations; 212 Nabokov Studies the book can expect to be subjected to a good deal of handling and more or less legal photocopying. Secondly, it is supremely well edited, the maximum critical apparatus supplied with the minimum of fuss: notes following individual entries tying into a common bibliography at the end of the volume; notes on contributors; a well-stocked subject and name index; clean accurate copy, unmarred by misprints and inaccuracies; and an alphabetical listing of entries which assures the reader ready access to the material. In the organization of material there are one or two places where it might be wished that the editor had exercised firmer control. I cannot help thinking that the subject of Nabokov's lectures on literature might have more effectively been handled in one essay rather than three ("Lectures on Don Quixote", "Lectures on Literature ," "Lectures on Russian Literature"). Conversely, the discussion of the Autobiography might better have been approached under that heading so as to give more prominence to its English and Russian variants, rather than subsuming them under the title of the final version Speak, Memory. And the concertina of entries, "Nabokov and . . . ," which explore affinities and antipathies between Nabokov and other writers, might easily have been expanded ... or contracted, because by no means all the associations are of equal importance. But two inclusions are welcome indeed, that of Flaubert and Khodasevich. AU in all, however, Alexandrov has achieved the well nigh impossible editorial feat of striking a judicious balance between freedom and necessity, and allowing contributors their head while covering the ground. The volume is not clogged with recycled material—less than a fifth have appeared elsewhere—and this...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9965
Print ISSN
1080-1219
Pages
pp. 211-215
Launched on MUSE
2010-10-13
Open Access
No
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