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Nabokov's Perfect, Cheeky Response to a Reader Who Tried to Correct Him

Carl Mydans/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Sir: Mr. Nabokov’s August 4 essay, “The Art of Translation,” contains a beautiful example of the Art of Misquotation.

He refers to a line from “L’Invitation au Voyage” as “Mon amie, ma soeur, connais-tu la douceur….” Poor Baudelaire! The Russian translator didn’t do so badly.

Baudelaire wrote:

Mon enfant, ma soeur,

Songe à la douceur….”

E.W. Nash

New York City 

Sir: I am sorry that a poor memory led me to make a “friend” of that child; but Mr. Nash is quite wrong in assuming that by correcting my quotation he has baudelairized the Russian version: that little joy-ride goes on undisturbed.

Vladimir Nabokov

Palo Alto, Calif.