Literature

Vladimir Nabokov

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Russia
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Novelist, Poet, Scholar, Translator, and Lepidopterist
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Vladimir Nabokov was born on or around April 23, 1899, to an aristocratic family in St. Petersburg, Russia. His father was a democrat and he loved England; while opposing Tsar, he was one of the founders of Democratic Constitution Party. Vladimir was the oldest of five children, who all grew up at the family's estate outside of St. Petersburg.

At home, the family spoke French, English, and Russian. Nabokov became trilingual from an early age. As a child, Nabokov played tennis and soccer, bicycled, and collected butterflies from their Vyra country estate. The family hired private tutors to teach Vladimir the art of observational painting. Nabokov attended the most prestigious and expensive school in Russia. Classmates knew him to be aloof and haughty.

He inherited an estate and two million dollars in 1916. This allowed him to publish, at a loss, 500 copies of a book of poems. Nabokov's father was one of the writers of “Retch” publishing and he had taken a position within the provincial government of Kerenski.

In 1917, the Bolsheviks took power and imprisoned him. The family left Russia and settled in the Crimea, at a friend's estate. When the father was released, he joined the family. During Nabokov's 18 months at the estate, he spent hours and hours collecting over 70 species of butterflies and over 100 species of moths. In 1923 his first scientific paper, in "The Entomologist," detailed his passion. 

As the Bolsheviks threatened the Crimea, the Nabokovs again fled, this time to England. Vladimir attended Cambridge University, where he studied French and Russian literature. He wrote poetry and a Russian translation of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland". He coasted easily through his studies. During this time, the family had moved to Berlin and the father worked as editor of the Russian-language newspaper “The Rudder”.

In 1922 Vladimir's father was shot and killed while trying to save politician Pavel Miliukov from assassins. After Cambridge, Nabokov moved to Berlin and began publishing fiction and poetry. On the side he taught tennis and English, wrote crossword puzzles, and worked as a translator and as an extra for local productions.

In 1925 he married Vera Evseevna Slonim. They had only a son, Dimitri, on May 10, 1934. Nabokov, an insomniac, wrote at night, producing "Mary" in 1925 and "The Gift" in 1938. Russian transplants loved his work, but it wasn't popular outside that small circle. Criticisms that it lacked enough "Russianess" supposedly prevented widespread appeal. But Nabokov maintained, "I have never been interested in what is called the literature of social comment." 

In 1937, the Nabakov and his wife left Nazi Germany and moved to Paris, where he wrote "The Real Life of Sabastian Knight" in French. Later, when the Nazis were invading France, the Nabokovs fled to the United States. Nabokov classified and drew butterflies and wrote papers for the Museum of Natural History in New York.

The following year, he taught creative writing at Stanford. He moved on to become Resident Lecturer in comparative literature at Wellesley College. Next he returned to entomological studies at Harvard, before becoming a visiting lecturer there. Cornell offered him a professorship in Russian and European literature in 1948, and he stayed on for ten years. 

Nabokov wrote for the "New Yorker," and assembled his memoirs into what was later published as "Speak, Memory." During the summers, he continued collecting butterflies, mostly in the Rocky Mountains. In the 1950s, he wrote "Lolita" during these trips. Unable to find a willing publisher in America, it was published in France first, in 1955. Three years later it became a bestseller in America for six months. The financial success of the novel allowed Nabokov to devote himself to writing full time. 

In 1961 the Nabokovs moved yet again, this time to Montreux, Switzerland. It was to be a temporary stay, partly to be close to Dimitri, who was studying opera singing in Milan. But they stayed at the Montreaux-Palace Hotel for their remaining years. Nabokov published "Pale Fire" in 1962. He died of a mysterious lung malady July 2, 1977 in Montreux, and he was buried at Clarens.

Books:
Lectures
Lectures on Literature, New York 1980
Lectures on "Ulysses", Columbia 1980
Lectures on Russian Literature, New York 1981
Lectures on "Don Quixote", New York 1983
Letters
Nabokov-Wilson Letters 1940-1971, New York 1979
Perepiska s Sestory (a collection of letters to her sister), 1985
Vladimir Nabakov: Selected Letters 1940-77, New York 1989
Novels
Mashen ka, Berlin 1926
Korol, Dama, Valet, Berlin 1928
Zashchita Luzhina, Berlin 1930
Kamera Obscura, Berlin 1932
Povdig, Paris 1932
Otchyanie, Berlin 1936
Camera Obscure, London 1936
Despair, London 1937 & New York 1966
Soglyadatay, Berlin 1938
Priglashenie na Kazn, Paris 1938
Laughter in the Dark, Indiana Police & New York 1938
The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, 1941
Bend Sinister, New York 1947
Dar, New York 1952
Lolita, Paris 1955 & New York 1958
Pnin, New York 1957
Invitation to a Beheading, New York, 1959
Pale Fire, New York 1962
The Gift, New York 1963
The Defense, New York 1964
The Eye, New York, 1965
King Queen, Knave, New York 1968
Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle, New York 1969
Mary, New York 1970
Glory, New York 1971
Transparent Things, New York 1972
Look at the Harlequins!, New York 1974
Plays
Izobretenie Val'se, 1938
The Waltz Invention, New York 1966
Lolita: A Screenplay, New York 1974
The Man from the USSR and other Plays, New York 1984
Poets
Stikhi (Poems), Petrograd 1916
Dva Puti (Two Paths), Petrograd 1918 (with Andrei Balashov)
Grozd (The Cluster), Berlin 1922
Gorniyi Put (The Empyrean Path), Berlin 1923
Stikhotvoreniya 1929-1951 (Poems), Paris 1952
Poems, New York 1959
Poems and Problems, New York 1972
Stikhi (Poems), 1979
Short Stories
Vozvraahchenie Chorba (The Return of Chorb), Berlin 1929
Nine Stories, 1947
Vesna v Fial'te Drugie Rasskazy (Spring in Fialta and other Stories), New York 1956
Nabokov's Dozen, New York 1958
Nabokov's Quartet, New York 1966
A Russian Beauty and other stories, New York 1973
Tyrants Destroyed and other stories, New York 1975
Details of a Sunset and other stories, New York 1976
The Enchanter, New York 1986
Translations
Nikolka Persik, Russian translation of "Colas Breugnon" Roman Rolan, Berlin 1922
Anya v Strane Chudes, Russian translation of Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland", Berlin 1923
Three Russian Poets, from Russian, 1945
Pushkin, Lermontov, Tyutchev, London 1947
A Hero of Our Time, from Russian of Lermontov, New York 1958
The Song of Igor's Campaign, from Russian, New York 1960
Eugene Onegin, from Russian, New York 1964
etc
Nikolay Gogol, 1944 (Critic)
Conclusive Evidence, New York 1951
Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited, , New York 1966
 
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