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08/02/2012 11:50 am ET

Rare Vladimir Nabokov Story About Boxing Published For First Time In English

The Times Literary Supplement has unearthed a rare story by Vladimir Nabokov, the author of "Lolita," "Pale Fire" and other poetic classics. Titled "Breitensträter – Paolino," the story has never been published in English before.

Nabokov was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and was raised speaking and writing both English and Russian. "Lolita" was written in English, and was later translated into Russian by Nabokov himself. This newly uncovered story, "Breitensträter – Paolino," was translated from Russian to English by Anastasia Tolstoy (yes, she is related to Leo Tolstoy. She's his great-great-great granddaughter) and Thomas Karshan.

The topic is a heavyweight boxing match that took place in Berlin in 1925. After the Russian Revolution, Nabokov's family lost their wealth and relocated to Germany, where the author taught tennis and boxing lessons during the daytime, and wrote at night.

The Times Literary Supplement writes:

Of all the sports Nabokov could have chosen to focus on, he took in boxing the one that concentrates as no other the pain and violence he always saw in play. But “Breitensträter–Paolino” is a very literary and verbal account of boxing – the author’s red ink seeping across a skein of metaphor into the blood on the referee’s vest – and is punctuated according to the varying rhythms and geometries of the sport: its quick flurries, its wary circlings, its duelling antitheses.

Of course, this is not the only posthumous Nabokov translation or publication. In 2009, the author's incomplete work, "The Original of Laura," was published in spite of his request that the manuscript be burned. The writer's son, Dmitri, who had translated his father's plays in the past, announced in 2008 that he would preserve the novel, but it was ultimately received poorly by critics.

Here is a taste of "Breitensträter–Paolino", which you can read in its entirety here:

Man has played as long as he has existed. There are ages – holidays of humanity – when man is especially impassioned by games. So it was in bygone Greece, in bygone Rome, and so it is in our own Europe of today.

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