Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001241, Wed, 21 Aug 1996 10:31:31 -0700

Rowohlt Sebastian Knight
The German publisher Rowohlt has been putting out a beautiful set of
Nabokov's _Gesammelte Werke_ in 24 volumes. Roughly 15 of the volumes are
out, and the latest to appear is __Das wahre Leben des Sebastian Knight_.
The series is edited by Dieter E. Zimmer, who is also the translator and
annotator of several of the volumes, these examples of the bookmaker's art
should be held by major research libraries.
American university libraries do not routinely order works that
are translations from English (or Russian) into other languages (or
from Russian into languages other than English). It
would seem pointless duplication. The Rowohlt Nabokov edition should be an
exception. Each volume, in addition to the German translated text,
contains supplementary research materials that are always useful and, in
some cases, uniquely available in that edition.
The new RLSK is a good example. Editor-translator-annotator
Zimmer appends thirty pages of new material. A 12-page "Nachwort"
provides biographical background to the writing of RLSK and succinctly
surveys possible interpretations. Next is a "Chronology" of the events of
the novel, followed by a "Selected Bibliography" listing publications as
late as 1995. Finally, there are 17 pages of "Notes" on references in the
novel's text. The notes range from very specific identifcations, e.g., who
was Mata Hari?--through obscure literary subtexts, e.g., lines possibly
derived from Rupert Brooke to the full text of the nursery rhyme "Who
killed Cock Robin?"-- to trickly questions of dating with their
implications. Not only has editor Zimmer pulled together much widely
scattered research information but he has many new discoveries. More than
one American Nabokovian has needlessly spent many hours trying to locate
information readily available in the published Rowohlt volumes.

One last thought. Only the most modest acquaintance with German
is needed to benefit from the research materials. I speak from experience.

D. Barton Johnson Department of Germanic, Slavic and Semitic Studies
Phelps Hall University of California at Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, CA
93106 Phone and Fax: (805) 687-1825 Home Phone: (805) 682-4618