Discovering new books and authors is one of life’s greatest pleasures, but occasionally a return to the familiar does well for the soul. While I had never read the 1957 novel “Pnin” until now, I have been familiar with the book’s author — Vladimir Nabokov — for quite some time. In college, I wrote a thesis on “Lolita” and have considered him one of the masters ever since.

The thing about writers such as Nabokov is that reading them is often an exercise in self-loathing for those of us who aspire to be good writers. Reading his books, one cannot help but notice the inherent talent of the writer. More impressively, Nabokov is a Russian. His second language was English, yet his command of the language is unparalleled. His ability to turn a phrase is the stuff of awe and wonder. Just look at his description of the protagonist of “Pnin.”

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