translated books fro m Russian, including Vladimir Nabokov’s “The Defen se” ...
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SoA professor recalls Koestler’s complex career with biography
Michael Scammell's “Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic" focuses on Arthur Koestler's dynamic intellectual history
By Nicollette Barsamian
Published Tuesday 16 February 2010 12:52am EST.
Zionism, communism, and anti-communism were only a few of the ideologies embraced by the Hungarian-born British writer Arthur Koestler throughout his colorful intellectual career.
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Koestler’s best known novel, “Darkness at Noon,” exemplifies his disillusionment with communism through the Stalinist purges of the ’30s. The author of an acclaimed biography of Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, Scammell has also translated books from Russian, including Vladimir Nabokov’s “The Defense” and “The Gift”, as well as Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.”
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“When I was in grad school I published my first translation, ‘Cities and Years.’ It was my first long novel. I was fascinated by translation. Then I met Nabokov. … It turned out that my landlady was the first cousin of Nabokov’s wife. The things that can happen to you in New York City.”
Nabokov, author of “Lolita,” read Scammell’s previous translation and sent him excerpts of “The Gift” to translate from Russian. Scammell said that translating Nabokov, compared to “Cities and Years,” was “much harder and much more rewarding.” Nabokov also asked Scammell to translate “The Defense.”
“I regard New York as my spiritual home,” Scammell said. “I’m extremely happy to be here. I love New York and think it’s the capital of the world. … The serious cultural climate is on a higher level here than the cultural climate in the UK.”
Nonetheless, Scammell was pleasantly surprised by the interest the biography generated in Koestler. “Part of my writing the biography was to restore his reputation and work to a contemporary audience,” he said.
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