AUTHOR OF THE DAY: Vladimir Nabokov

Vladimir Nabokov was born on April 22, 1899 in St. Petersburg, Russia. He was a Russian novelist and critic best known for his distinct writing style.

Nabokov was born into an extremely political and highly cultured family. The Nabokov family fled Russia following the Bolshevik revolution in 1919. The Nabokov home was trilingual. As a child, Nabokov read Edgar Allan Poe, John Keats, H.G. Wells, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekov, Gustave Flaubert and more. He studied romance languages and Slavic at Trinity College, Cambridge. He graduated with honors in 1922. 

The following eighteen years he lived in Berlin and Paris, where he wrote in Russian under the pseudonym Vladimir Sirin. He supported himself through translations, lessons in English and lessons in tennis. He, also, composed the first crossword puzzles in Russian. 

In 1940, Nabokov was on the move once more after having fled Russia and Germany, he was forced to leave France for the United States.  Nabokov decided to give up writing fiction in Russian and began to compose in English. He exclaimed with great sadness:

"My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody’s concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English, devoid of any of those apparatuses—the baffling mirror, the black velvet backdrop, the implied associations and traditions which the native illusionist, frac-tails flying, can magically use to transcend the heritage in his own way."

Despite his feelings of melancholy after abandoning his native language, this period rose Nabokov to fame with arguably his best work, including Lolita. He also worked on translations of his Russian novels into English. He revealed in an interview:

"Lolita is famous, not I. I am an obscure, doubly obscure, novelist with an unpronounceable name."

Lolita was an instant classic and made Nabokov a household name. He wrote Lolita while traveling the west coast in the United States in search of butterflies for his collection. He once declared: 

Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.”

His career in entomology was as equally distinguished as his writing. He is known for his intricate use of words and heavily ornate writing style. His use of complex plots, alliteration, and playful linguistics make Nabokov’s literature breathtakingly beautiful and pretentious. His attention to language is a surgical artistry defined by the complexity of his prose and characters. It is obvious that his trilingual upbringing had a profound influence over his artistry. During his lifetime he also wrote literary criticism and translated Russian literature, including Alexander Pushkin’s epic, Eugene Onegin

After the success of Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov moved back to Europe. He died on July 2, 1977 in Montreux, Switzerland. 


Lolita (1955)

Pale Fire (1962)

Speak, Memory (1936–1966)

Ada, or Ardor (1969)

Read excerpts by Vladimir Nabokov here! Get his books here

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