Books: Lord of Language

THE GIFT (378 pp.)-Vladimir Nabokov-Putnam ($5.95).

Vladimir Nabokov has the gift of tongue-specifically Russian and English. Famed for his novels in his second tongue (notably Pale Fire and Lolita), Nabokov has now released the English translation (which is partly his own) of The Gift, which is the last novel he wrote-26 years ago-in his native Russian. Without being a great book, it is clearly a book by a great writer; each sentence delights the ear or some area of the mind.

Nabokov's young hero is very like the young Nabokov. Count Fyodor Godu-nov-Cherdyntsev is...

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