The Writings of Vladimir Nabokov: About His Life and Work

The Writings of Vladimir Nabokov: About His Life and Work
22 April 2014

The Writings of Vladimir Nabokov: About His Life and Work

Vladimir Nabokov ( 22/04/1899 2/07/1977) is a famous Russian and American writer. He was born in St. Petersburg in 1899 to a family that came from the Russian nobility. Very early, around the age of 6 years, he mastered English and also learned French. Moreover, he said, “I learned to read English before I could read Russian” (Other shores – Другие берега, 1954).

But with the 1917 revolution and the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks, his family was forced into exile. They lived almost two years in the Crimea before reaching England. There, he studied French and Russian Literature at the University of Cambridge and then moved to Berlin.

That’s when he began to publish short stories and poems. Unfortunately, the rise of Nazism forced him to leave Germany (his wife was Jewish) to Paris.
His first novel “Mashenka” (Машенька – 1926) written in Russian had some success with Russian immigrants. But it was his novel “The Luzhin Defense” (Защита Лужина – 1930) which gave him a well-known reputation.

In 1940, he emigrated to the United States where he wrote his first novel in English “Real Life of Sebastian Knight” (1941). He became an American citizen in 1945.

The consecration of his work comes with the success of his novel “Lolita,” published in 1955 which made a big scandal because it was considered by some publishers as too obscene :  the book tells the passionate and sensual love between a European, Humbert Humbert and a young American of 12 years. Yet many recognize this novel as a masterpiece and it was adapted to the cinema twice (Stanley Kubrick in 1962 and Adrian Lyne in 1997).

His style is characterized by use of parody, satire and puns. He published more novels like “Pale Fire” (1961) or “Ada or Ardor.” (1969).

He was a multifaceted character since he was also an entomologist (study of insects) and especially a passion for butterflies. He  devoted an entire chapter in his book “Other Shores”. He also published articles in scientific journals on this subject. His collection was huge because there were around 4300 specimens! Another interesting aspect : he was a passionate chess player!

For your information also, he was what is called “grapheme synesthete”: the letters of the alphabet or numbers are perceived in colour and not in black !

Nabokov is characterized by its dexterity, ingenuity of its style and its position as an intermediary author between the Russian and the American literatures. If you like reading, try Nabokov, enjoy!

This post was brought to you by Anne-Sophie, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz

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