NABOKV-L post 0010602, Fri, 19 Nov 2004 14:09:44 -0800

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TourArena - NabokovEDNOTE. The text has several errors but the pictures are nice.



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Nabokov


Critics call Vladimir Nabokov a cosmopolitan writer, while he himself used to say “My head speaks English, my heart speaks Russian and my ear speaks French”. One way or another, his creation is a world-wide heritage. The best part of Nabokov’s writing career geographically indeed belonged to the United States and Western Europe, but it started and was formed in Saint-Petersburg and its essential inspiration had always been his nostalgia for the city of his youth.



Vladimir Nabokov was born on April 22, 1899 in a well-off noble family of Saint-Petersburg aristocrats. He was brought up in the air of blissful happiness and welfare. The family lived in the Nabokovs’ Mansion on Bolshaya Morskaya Street 47. The present look of the house was designed by Geisler and Guslisty in 1901-1902 as the first example of the so-called Art Nouveau style in Saint-Petersburg. It was not until 1992 that an exhibition devoted to the writer’s life and career opened in the mansion. Today the exhibition is housed on the ground-floor of the building and a true Nabokov’s commemorative museum is to open soon.




Nabokov's parents gave him a truly comprehensive pre-school education, including excellent knowledge of the three major languages that were later to become of so much use for him as a writer. With all the attention paid to painting, philology and natural sciences, especially etymology and great attention to physical education, it was hardly possible to get a better education for a child. His father, a professor of jurisdiction in the Imperial College, gathered remarkable art collection and library. The house was full of precious pieces of art, paintings by Bakst, Benous, Somov, and priceless books.




From 1911 till 1917 Nabokov studied at Tenishevsky College. It was already at school when his notorious self-confidence and aplomb began to show up. There he won the reputation of a snob. Nevertheless, those were the most happy years of his life. The romantic memories of Saint-Petersburg were to play the key role in his future writing. As already a well-established writer he described the joyful years in his nostalgic biographical novel “The Other Coasts”.




The political disorder in Russia of the late 1910ths ruined the Nabokovs’ idyll once and for all forcing the family to seek shelter abroad. Terror and anarchy were to follow the Bolsheviks’ seizure of power and the Nabokovs knew this only too well. In 1919, they crossed Russian borders heading for Western Europe and none of them ever returned to Saint-Petersburg. Their mansion was then nationalized by Bolsheviks. The family’s private art collection and library were taken by the Soviet Government. Some of the items were given to the Hermitage and the Russian Museum collections, while the rest seems to have been dispersed for ever.



While his parents, sisters and brothers settled in Berlin, he himself arrived in England to study French and Russian literature at Cambridge in 1919-1922. From this there came his first bulk of verses. From the very beginning Nabokov’s nostalgia served him as a kind of lyric background for his narration. His first novels were written in his native tongue, “Mashen’ka”, “Defence of Luzhin”, “Desperation”, “Invitation for Execution”, “The Gift”. In 1925, when he already began to enjoy popularity, Nabokov married Vera Slonim. Not only was she the most helpful ally in the writer’s career, but also the Muse to whom he dedicated many of his brilliant novels.




In 1940 Nabokov arrived in the United States where he lived until 1960. Thanks to his intelligence and hard work Nabokov adapted quickly to the new way of life. His special sense for foreign languages was important too. Soon he was able to give public lectures in American colleges and Universities. An already famous writer, he had to prove his worth once again. The great success of his scandalous novel “Lolita” written in English in 1950 let Nabokov quit his teaching and concentrate on writing. Still, he kept his Russian alive by translating into Russian all his originally English works.




Nabokov viewed both great languages as a part of his natural background and wanted the two cultures to know each other as well as possible. The four volumes of his painstaking attempts to clear up the poem “Eugenie Onegin” by Pushkin for the English were a feat, however useless. He did it by dissipating the poetical body into a desperate amount of descriptive notes, and indeed made the origin so flat as if it were no poem at all. Nonetheless, it doesn’t reduce his talent for double-sided work. He knew perfectly how to bring an idea from one language into another as long as his own work was concerned.




In 1960 Nabokov moved to Switzerland were he created his two most intricate English novels “Pale Fire” and “Ada, or Passion”. As an old man he turned back to his native language. He translated and published the Russian version of “Lolita” and wrote a bulk of lyric poems in Russian. He died on July 2, 1977 in Switzerland never returning to his native city.