Don Quixote has been called the greatest novel ever written. This, of course, is nonsense.
Nabokov’s English pronunciation is difficult to characterize, but one thing it certainly isn’t - it’s no Russian accent. If he ever had a typical Russian accent in English, he’d done as thorough job of getting rid of it as any I’d ever heard - my own clumsy, heavy English sounds can only whistle in wistful admiration of those immaculate consonants and well-articulated vowels scrubbed clean of all traits Slavonic. Why, then, is it still impossible to mistake this spotless sound-stream for the speech of a native speaker of English? Well, the curiously trilled [r] (especially the initial r’s that sound as if he’s grabbing an extra quarter-mouthful of air every time to start up those trills), the European [l], the vowels themselves, sometimes strangely misplaced (”want” is a Teutonic vahnt near the beginning of An Evening of Russian Poetry), and, last but foremost, the articulation itself: the excess of clarity, each syllable dwelled upon and delivered in just-the-right manner, too-right a manner.
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