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Though we know Vladimir Nabokov as a brilliant novelist, his first love was poetry. This landmark collection brings together the best of his verse, including many pieces that have never before appeared in English. These poems span the whole of Nabokov's career, from the newly discovered "Music," written in 1914, to the short, playful "To Véra," composed in 1974. Many are newly translated by Dmitri Nabokov, including The University Poem, a sparkling novel in verse modeled on Pushkin's Eugene Onegin that constitutes a significant new addition to Nabokov's oeuvre. Included too are such poems as "Lilith", an early work which broaches the taboo theme revisited nearly forty years later in Lolita, and "An Evening of Russian Poetry", a masterpiece in which Nabokov movingly mourns his lost language in the guise of a versified lecture on Russian delivered to college girls. The subjects range from the Russian Revolution to the American refrigerator, taking in on the way motel rooms, butterflies, ice-skating, love, desire, exile, loneliness, language, and poetry itself; and the poet whirls swiftly between the brilliantly painted facets of his genius, wearing masks that are, by turns, tender, demonic, sincere, self-parodying, shamanic, visionary, and ingeniously domestic.
For the first time in English, Vladimir Nabokov's earliest major work, written when he was only twenty-four: his only full-length play, introduced by Thomas Karshan and beautifully translated by Karshan and Anastasia Tolstoy. The Tragedy of Mister Morn was written in the winter of 1923-1924, when Nabokov was completely unknown. The five-act play--the story of an incognito king whose love for the wife of a banished revolutionary brings on the chaos the king has fought to prevent--was never published in Nabokov's lifetime and lay in manuscript until it appeared in a Russian literary journal in 1997. It is an astonishingly precocious work, in exquisite verse, touching for the first time on what would become this great writer's major themes: intense sexual desire and jealousy, the elusiveness of happiness, the power of the imagination, and the eternal battle between truth and fantasy. The play is Nabokov's major response to the Russian Revolution, which he had lived through, but it approaches the events of 1917 above all through the prism of Shakespearean tragedy.