VLADIMIR NABOKOV Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov Pronounced: vlah-DEE-meer nah-BAWK-awf (April 10 O.S. [April 22/23 N.S.], 1899 - July 2, 1977), was a Russian author, lepidopterist and chess problemist.
Brief biography The eldest son of Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov and his wife Elena, nee Elena Ivanovna Rukavishnikova, he was born in St. Petersburg where he also spent his childhood and youth.


After emigration from Russia in 1919, the family settled briefly in England and Vladimir enrolled in Cambridge for his studies of French and Russian literature. In 1923, he graduated from Cambridge and relocated to Berlin, where he gained some reputation within the colony of Russian emigres as a novelist and poet. He married Vera Slonim in Berlin in 1925, with whom he had a son, Dmitri, born in 1934.


Nabokov left Germany with his family in 1937 for Paris and in 1940 fled from the advancing German troops to the United States. It was here that he met Edmund Wilson, who introduced Nabokov’s work to American editors, eventually leading to his international recognition.


He died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.


Nabokov was a synaesthete and described aspects of synaesthesia in several of his works.


Note on Nabokov’s date of birth


His date of birth was April 10, 1899, by the Julian calendar. The Gregorian equivalent was then April 22, but it changed to April 23 in 1900, while Russia did not adopt the Gregorian calendar until 1918. Accordingly, his date of birth may correctly be considered as April 22, as some sources show, but April 23 is the birthday that he actually observed.




His first writings were in the Russian language, but he came to his greatest distinction in the English language. For this achievement, he has been compared with Joseph Conrad; yet some view this as a dubious comparison, as Conrad only composed in English, never in his native Polish. Nabokov translated many of his early works into English, sometimes in cooperation with his son Dmitri Nabokov. His trilingual upbringing (English, Russian and French) had a profound influence on his artistry.


Nabokov is noted for his complex plots and clever word play. He gained both fame and notoriety with his novel Lolita (1955), which tells of a grown man’s consummated passion for a twelve-year-old girl. This and his other novels, particularly Pale Fire (1962), won him a place among the greatest novelists of the 20th century. Perhaps his defining work, which met with a mixed response, is his longest novel, Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle. He devoted more time to the construction of this novel than any of his others. Nabokov’s fiction is characterized by its linguistic playfulness. Nabokov’s best-known short story, “The Vane Sisters “, is famous in part for its acrostical final paragraph, in which the first letters of each word spell out a ghostly message from beyond the grave.


Nabokov’s stature as a literary critic is founded largely on his four-volume translation of and commentary on Aleksandr Pushkin’s Russian soul epic Eugene Onegin. That commentary ended with an appendix called Notes on Prosody which has developed a reputation of its own. This essay stemmed from his observation that while Pushkin’s iambic tetrameters had been a part of Russian literature for a fairly short two centuries, they were clearly understood by the Russian prosodists. On the other hand, he viewed the much older English iambic tetrameters as muddled and poorly documented. In his own words:


“I have been forced to invent a simple little terminology of my own, explain its application to English verse forms, and indulge in certain rather copious details of classification before even tackling the limited object of these notes to my translation of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin, an object that boils down to very little – in comparison to the forced preliminaries – namely, to a few things that the non-Russian student of Russian literature must know in regard to Russian prosody in general and to Eugene Onegin in particular.”