Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (Владимир Владимирович Набоков) (April 10 O.S. [April 22/23 N.S.], 1899 - July 2, 1977), was a Russian author, lepidopterist and chess problemist.
The eldest son of Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, he was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, 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 émigrés as a 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.
He died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1917.
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. In 2001, Lolita and Pale Fire were both on the list of the 100 best English-language novels of the twentieth century as selected by the editorial board of the American Modern Library. 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."
His career as a lepidopterist was equally distinguished. Throughout an extensive career of collecting he never learned to drive a car, and he depended on his wife Vera to bring him to collecting sites. During the 1940s he was responsible for organizing the butterfly collection of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. His writings in this area were highly technical. This combined with his specialty in the relatively unspectacular tribe Polyommatini of the family Lycaenidae has left this facet of his life unknown to the broad range of his literary fans. For more on this see Dieter Zimmer's "A Guide to Nabokov's Butterflies and Moths", Berlin, 2001.
List of Works
Mashen'ka (Машенька, 1926); English translation: Mary (1970)
Korol' Dama Valet (Король, дама, валет, 1928); English translation: King, Queen, Knave (1968)
Zashchita Luzhina (Защита Лужина, 1930); English translation: The Defense (or The Defence)(1964) (also made into a movie, The Luzhin Defence, in 2001)
Podvig (Подвиг, 1932); English translation: Glory (1971)
Kamera Obskura (Камера Обскура, 1932); English translations: Camera Obscura (1936), Laughter in the Dark (1938)
Otchayanie (Отчаяние, 1936); English translation: Despair (1937, 1966)
Priglasheniye na kazn' (Приглашение на казнь, 1938); English translation: Invitation to a Beheading (1959)
Dar (Дар, 1937/8, 1952); English translation: The Gift (1963)
The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941)
Bend Sinister (1947)
Lolita (1955, self-translated into Russian, 1965)
Pale Fire (1962)
Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle (1969)
Transparent Things (1972)
Look at the Harlequins (1974)
The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov (1995)
Poems, short stories.
From Russian into English:
Eugene Onegin (by Aleksandr Pushkin, in prose)
A Hero of our Time (by Mikhail Lermontov)
From English into Russian
Alice In Wonderland (Аня в стране чудес)
Lectures on Literature
Lectures on Russian Literature
Lectures on Don Quixote
Nabokov's Butterflies, collected works on butterflies. ISBN 0807085405
Poems and Problems (a collection of poetry and chess problems)
Conclusive Evidence (1951) - first version of Nabokov's autobiography
Drugie Berega (Другие берега); English translation: Other Shores (1954) - revised version of the autobiography
Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (1967) - final revised and extended edition of Conclusive Evidence. It includes information on his work as a lepidopterist.
Nabokov's Congeries (1968)
Selected Letters (1989)