Books: Face Value

DESPAIR by Vladimir Nabokov. 222 pages. Putnam. $5.

The novelist's past has surpassed his present; there is now more old Nabokov around than new. The new Nabokov is represented by the man who has written five novels in English, the old by the Russian émigré, who, cast into exile by the Revolution, wrote eight novels in his mother tongue. Six of these have so far been translated into English, putting the old Nabokov one up on the new. Despair, the sixth, has been published in English twice.

Nabokov's original translation in 1937 fell upon an...

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