A chivalric expedition is undertaken in the late 12th century by a minor prince in the land of Rus’ to defeat, against overwhelming odds, a powerful alliance in a neighboring territory. The anonymous poet who chronicled this adventure packed unprecedented metaphorical agility, keenness of observation, and fascinating imagery into the lean and powerful tale of the doomed campaign.
Discovered in the late 18th century and only narrowly distributed, the original manuscript was destroyed in a fire, leading to endless debate about the provenance and authenticity of the extant versions. It also served as the basis of Borodin’s opera Prince Igor. Translated by Vladimir Nabokov, the verses that constitute The Song of Igor’s Campaign are presented in their original rhyme and meter, and Nabokov’s extensive annotations provide illuminations on all the aspects of the text.