Nabokov was a prodigiously gifted literary jeweler who sometimes cut deeply into human experience and at other times preferred to play clever games on its surface. At his worst, he sought to trick the reader with exotic wordplay, cultural booby traps, and exhibitionistic displays of stylistic arabesques. In his best work, such as Lolita; Speak, Memory; Pnin; and Pale Fire, however, he is a poetic fabulist and magician whose aestheticism is at the service of love, tenderness, compassion, kindness, empathy, grief, loneliness, wonder, and, above all, great art.
Vladimir Nabokov was an unusual American writer to say the least. Born in St. Petersburg, prompted to flee Russia after the Revolution, his formal education completed at Cambridge, Nabokov settled in Berlin where he wrote in Russian and gave instruction in English and in tennis. In 1937 he moved to Paris and shortly thereafter began to write a novel in English, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941). In 1940 the advancing Nazi horde forced Nabokov, his wife, and son Dmitri to flee to the United States. That son, coeditor with Matthew I Bruccoli of this correspondence, chose and in some instances translated fifteen letters from the Berlin and Paris phases of his father’s life as a prelude to the American letters....
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Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov’s life divides neatly into four phases, each lasting approximately twenty years. He was born on Shakespeare’s birthday in 1899 to an aristocratic and wealthy family residing in St. Petersburg. His grandfather was State Minister of Justice for two czars; his father, Vladimir Dmitrievich, a prominent liberal politician, married a woman from an extremely wealthy family. Vladimir Vladimirovich, the first of two sons, was reared with much parental love and care, eloquently evoked in his lyrical memoir, Conclusive Evidence: A Memoir (1951), later expanded and retitled Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (1966).
In 1919, the October Revolution forced the Nabokovs to...
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Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born to Vladimir Dmitrievich and Elena Rukavishnikov Nabokov in St. Petersburg, Russia, the eldest of five children. He grew up in comfortable circumstances, tracing his ancestry back to a Tartar prince of the 1380’s and through a number of military men, statesmen, Siberian merchants, and the first president of the Russian Imperial Academy of Medicine. His father was a noted liberal who had helped found the Constitutional Democratic Party, was elected to the first Duma, and coedited the sole liberal newspaper in St. Petersburg. In his childhood, the young Nabokov was taken on trips to France, Italy, and Spain, and he summered on the country estate of Vyra, accumulating memories that would become...
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Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (NAB-uh-kawf) was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was the eldest son of Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, a prominent liberal politician and Anglophile aristocrat, and Elena Rukavishnikov, a member of a prominent family of industrialists. Young Vladimir, the favorite child, grew up amid great wealth and cultural privilege. Trilingual from childhood, he had live-in tutors and attended a private school. From his idolized father he inherited a love of nature, especially butterflies, and of chess; from his mother he acquired a passion for the visual arts, particularly painting, and for the marvels of memory and commemoration. His early life was divided between the family’s elegant town...
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The critic George Steiner suggested that many of the writers who have left lasting marks in twentieth century literature share a characteristic that he termed “extraterritoriality.” In the past, writers were closely bound to their own countries and cultures. Their settings and their points of view were restricted to their own background. Vladimir Nabokov, like James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, and Jorge Luis Borges, lived in a multilingual, multicultural world. By drawing on his multicultural heritage, Nabokov revitalized the novel, creating master works for a new international audience.
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (NAB-uh-kawf) occupies a unique niche in the annals of literature by having become a major author in both Russian and English. He wrote nine novels, about forty stories, and considerable poetry in Russian before migrating to the United States in 1940. Thereafter, he not only produced eight more novels and ten short stories in English but also translated into that tongue the fiction he had composed in his native language. His fifty-year career as a writer included (besides fiction and poetry) drama, memoirs, translations, reviews, letters, critical essays, literary criticism, and the screenplay of his novel Lolita.
Nabokov’s life divides neatly into four phases, each lasting...
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Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov’s life divides neatly into four phases, each lasting approximately twenty years. The oldest of five siblings, he was born April 10 (Old Style), 1899, to an aristocratic and wealthy family in St. Petersburg. Nabokov later insisted on the New Style birth date of April 23, because it coincided with William Shakespeare’s.
Nabokov’s grandfather, Dmitri Nikolayevich, had been state minister of justice for two czars. His father, Vladimir Dmitrievich, a prominent liberal statesman, was married to Elena Rukavishnikova, a beautiful woman from an extremely rich family. Vladimir’s parents adored their firstborn child and raised him with enormous love and care. Nabokov eloquently evoked his...
(The entire section is 690 words.)