Overlooked by students of John Keats's reception in Russia and misattributed by scholars researching the earliest stages of the writer's evolution, Vladimir Nabokov's Russian domestication of “La Belle Dame Sans Merci” (1921) poses before its interpreter a set of problems ranging from the mystery of its origin to issues in the ontology and ethics of literary translation as adaptation. The present study of one such work establishes that Nabokov's experiments in literary adaptation, their questionable proprietorship notwithstanding, afford a unique perspective not only on the subsequent development of his theory and practice of literary translation, but also on his original writing. The essay's analysis of “Akh, chto muchit tebia, goremyka” shows it to have been a seminal instance of Nabokov's fruitful and enduring engagement with a principle poetic text in the Anglo-American canon, as well as with the artistic imagination abiding therein. As a result of his encounter with Keats's ballad in the medium of literary adaptation, Nabokov was able to acquire, absorb, and creatively promulgate a productive stratagem that would become a hallmark of his own creative output, that of the unreliable narrator.

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