Translated from the Russian by the author.London: John Long, Limited, 1937 Stock Code: 124322
First English edition, first impression, first issue in the black cloth. Nabokov's second English publication was put out by the small imprint John Long who specialized in unconventional, quirky books, especially mystery, fantasy, and crime novels. They had previously published Nabokov's Camera Obscura with very little success and fared no better with this. Both titles were remaindered in cheaper bindings and copies of either in dust jacket are rare. Of Despair there are thought to be a mere handful.
This copy has the ownership signature, dated 1937, of the Swedish translator Karin de Laval (1894-1973), who was perhaps considering a translation. There are very light pencil annotations to one page that appear to be explications of idiomatic phrases. Laval notably translated works by Tolstoy and Zola; she was probably best known for her translations of Italian writers including Corrado Alvaro, Mario Soldati, Dacia Maraini, and Alberto Moravia.
Nabokov knew Laval by reputation. On 11 November 1957 he complained to his Swedish publisher about a poor translation of Pnin: "I must insist that Pnin's translation into Swedish be made by another translator, someone who knows English and can be trusted to respect the text of the original... There is another lady who is supposed to be an honest translator, Mme Karin de Laval. I am not familiar with her work but you might want to ask her to make a sample translation of one chapter or less." The Swedish translation of Pnin was eventually done by Nils Kjellstrom and published by Wahlstrom & Widstrand in 1958; it was so poor that Nabokov had Doubleday arrange for it to be destroyed.
Octavo. Original black cloth, titles to front board and spine gilt. With the pictorial dust jacket. Housed in a quarter morocco black solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.
Endpapers somewhat browned, spine very gently rolled but an excellent copy in the frayed and rubbed dust jacket with loss at the ends of the spine panel and a small triangular chip from the centre of the spine panel. With some neat professional repair to the folds.
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