Books: The Russian Box Trick

PALE FIRE (315 pp.)—Vladimir Nabokov—Putnam ($5).

Desperate Russian critics, trying hard to pigeonhole my own novels, have once or twice linked me up with Gogol, but when they looked again I had untied the knots and the box was empty.

— Vladimir Nabokov

No critic, Russian or not, has yet been able to lock Vladimir Nabokov in a box, except for the clumsily made critical box labeled "cleverness" — a confinement not really confining, since cleverness implies an ability to get out of boxes. Still, by general acknowledgment, Nabokov is the cleverest author to write in Russian in the last few decades, and...

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