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Vladimir Nabokov Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (1)  | Trivia (6)  | Personal Quotes (10)

Overview (4)

Born in St. Petersburg, Russian Empire [now Russia]
Died in Lausanne, Switzerland
Birth NameVladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov
Height 6' 2" (1.88 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on April 22, 1899, the eldest of five children in a wealthy aristocratic family in St. Petersburg, Russia. His grandfather was a Justice Minister to the Czar Alexander II. His father, named Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, was a liberal political leader, the editor of a liberal newspaper, and was a friend of Sergei Diaghilev. His mother, named Elena Ivanovna (née Rukavishnikov), was the daughter of the wealthiest Russian goldmine owner.

Nabokov's family was trilingual. As a child he was already reading foreign writers Edgar Allan Poe, Gustave Flaubert, and the Russians Leo Tolstoy, Nikolay Gogol, and Anton Chekhov. He excelled in languages and literature, as well, as in soccer, tennis and chess. He was inspired by his father's studies in lepidoptery from the age of 7, and spent summers collecting butterflies in the family estate of Vyra, near St. Petersburg. He graduated from the most advanced and prestigious Tenishev School in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Nabokov's father was the Secretary of the Russian Provisional Government, when he was arrested during the Russian revolution of October, 1917, and the family estate was confiscated by the communists. The Nabokov family emigrated to London and then to Berlin. There Nabokov's father was murdered at a political meeting while shielding his opponent from assassins. The painful memory of his father's violent death would echo in many of Nabokov's writings. In 1923 Nabokov graduated with honors from Trinity College, Cambridge, where he studied zoology and literature. He worked as a translator and tutor in Europe for 18 years. In 1925 he married Vera Evseevna Slonim, from a Russian-Jewish family, and their son Dimitri was born in 1934.

Traumatized by the death of his father and the loss of his home country, Nabokov expressed himself in writing. His novel 'The Luzhin Defence' (1930) is alluding to his own story of emigration and the sense of loss. In 1937 his father's killer was released by Adolf Hitler, and Nabokov had to move to Paris. Three years later he fled from the advancing German Armies to the United States, with his wife and son. In 1940 he crossed the Atlantic Ocean on the Champlain, where he had a first class cabin, paid with the money from the composer Sergei Rachmaninoff. In 1945 Nabokov became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He taught literature at Cornell University and worked as entomologist at Harvard University, becoming a distinguished lepidopterist.

He published short stories in the Atlantic and the New Yorker magazines in English, while still writing his memoirs in Russian, and agonizing to switch from Russian to English. It took him 6 years to complete "Lolita" (1955), a controversial story of a pedophile's desire for a 12-year-old girl, who reminds him of the little girl he loved as a boy. The novel was banned in America and the UK until 1958. He later wrote a screenplay for the film Lolita (1962), directed by Stanley Kubrick. Lolita and "Pale Fire" (1962) are his best known novels. In 1964 Nabokov published his four-volume translation of 'Eugene Onegin' by Alexander Pushkin, on which he worked for 10 years. He later made English translations of poems by Mikhail Lermontov and Fyodor Tyutchev. His own later works: the artfully constructed 'Ada' (1969), 'Transparent Things' (1972), and the autobiographic 'Look at the Harlequins' (1975), were translated into Russian by his son Dimitri. Nabokov also published scholarly works on Nikolay Gogol, James Joyce and Franz Kafka.

In 1960 Nabokov moved to Switzerland and made his home at the Montreux Palace Hotel. From there he frequently traveled to Milan, Italy, where his son Dimitri Nabokov was an opera singer at the La Scala. Nabokov's main hobby was his immense collection of rare butterflies which grew to a museum-quality with his many entomological expeditions. He never learned to drive a car, and he depended on his wife Vera to drive him around. Nabokov's individualism manifested in his ironic rejection of any mass-psychology, especially Marxism, Freudism, etc. He never used telephones, thus preventing any outside influence over his way of life. He had a rare gift of synaesthesia, cognate with that of composer Alexander Scriabin and artist Wassily Kandinsky. Nabokov also made his name in chess by composing chess problems.

Vladimir Nabokov died on July 2, 1977, in Montreux Palace Hotel, and was laid to rest in the Clarens Cemetery, Montreux, Switzerland. His wife and muse, Vera Slonim, died in 1993, and was laid to rest with Nabokov. The family mansion of Nabokov's in St. Petersburg, Russia is now a Nabokov's Museum. His first collection of butterflies is now part of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. His last and most valuable butterfly collection was bequeathed to the Zoology Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov

Spouse (1)

Vera Evseevna Slonim (15 April 1925 - 2 July 1977) ( his death) ( 1 child)

Trivia (6)

He was born under the Julian calendar on April 10, 1899. At the time this would have been April 22 by the Gregorian calendar, and this is often quoted as his birthday. But Russia remained on the Julian calendar until 1918, by which time the Gregorian date equivalent to April 10 had shifted to April 23 -- the date that Nabokov actually celebrated. Nabokov was pleased that this change allowed him to share a birthday with William Shakespeare.
Father of Dimitri Nabokov. Cousin to Nicolas Nabokov.
His father, a Russian diplomat who participated in the 1917 revolution but was not a Communist, was assassinated in Berlin in 1922 by a Russian fascist.
Donated his massive collections of rare butterflies to Harvard University and to Zoology Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Taught at Harvard University during the 1940s.
Mentioned in the song 'Don't Stand So Close To Me' by 'The Police'.

Personal Quotes (10)

[in "Speak Memory", his autobiography] But in England, at least in the England of my youth, the national dread of showing off and a too grim preoccupation with solid teamwork were not conducive to the development of the goalkeeper's art.
Many accepted authors simply do not exist for me. Bertolt Brecht, William Faulkner, Albert Camus, many others, mean absolutely nothing to me. I must fight a suspicion of conspiracy against my brain when I blandly see accepted as 'great literature' by critics and fellow authors Lady Chatterley's copulations or the pretentious nonsense of Mr. Ezra Pound, that total fake.
Every dimension presupposes a medium within which it can act, and if, in the spiral unwinding of things, space warps into something akin to time, and time, in its turn, warps into something akin to thought, then surely another dimension follows - a special Space maybe, not the old one, we trust, unless spirals become vicious circles again.
The verbal poetic texture of [William Shakespeare] is the greatest the world has known, and is immensely superior to the structure of his plays as plays. With Shakespeare it is the metaphor that is the thing, not the play.
Life is a great surprise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.
I have never been interested in what is called the literature of social comment (in journalistic and commercial parlance: "great books"). I am not "sincere", I am not "provocative", I am not "satirical" . . . the future of mankind, and so on, leave me completely indifferent.
[about the US] It is my country. The intellectual life suits me better there than in any other country in the world. I have more friends there, more kindred souls than anywhere.
[about criticism of his novel "Lolita"] What bothered me most was the belief that "Lolita" was a criticism of America. I think that's ridiculous. I don't see how anybody could find that in "Lolita". I don't like people who see the book as an erotic phenomenon, either. Even more, I suppose, I don't like people who haven't read "Lolita" and think it is obscene.
For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere connected with other states of being where art - curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy - is the norm. There are not many such books. All the rest are topical trash or what some might call the Literature of Ideas, which very often is topical trash.
[on the sex scenes in Edmund Wilson's "Memoirs of Hecate County"] The reader . . . derives no kick from the hero's love-making. I should have as soon tried to open a sardine can with my penis.

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