Russian-born American novelist, poet, translator and entomologist Vladimir Nabokov sadly died 2 July 1977. He was born 22 April [O.S. 10 April] 1899 in Saint Petersburg, to a wealthy and prominent family of the Russian nobility that traced its roots to the 14th-century Tatar prince Nabok Murza, who entered into the service of the Tsars, and from whom the family name is derived. His father was the liberal lawyer, statesman, and journalist Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov and his mother was the heiress Yelena Ivanovna née Rukavishnikova, the granddaughter of a millionaire gold-mine owner. His father was a leader of the pre-Revolutionary liberal Constitutional Democratic Party and wrote numerous books and articles about criminal law and politics. His cousins included the composer Nicolas Nabokov. His paternal grandfather, Dmitry Nabokov (1827–1904), was Russia’s Justice Minister during the reign of Alexander II. His paternal grandmother was the Baltic German Baroness Maria von Korff. He was also related to the composer Carl Heinrich Graun . Vladimir had four younger siblings: Sergey, Olga, Elena and Kirill. Sergey was killed in a Nazi concentration camp in 1945 after publicly denouncing Hitler’s regime. Ayn Rand recalled Olga (her close friend at Stoiunina Gymnasium) as a supporter of constitutional monarchy who first awakened Rand’s interest in politics.
Nabokov spent his childhood and youth in Saint Petersburg and at the country estate Vyra near Siverskaya, south of the city. . The family spoke Russian, English, and French in their household, and Nabokov was trilingual from an early age. The first English book his mother read to him was Misunderstood (1869) by Florence Montgomery.
In 1916, Nabokov published his first book, Stikhi (“Poems”), a collection of 68 Russian poems whilst attending Tenishev school in Saint Petersburg. Nabokov also inherited the estate Rozhdestveno, next to Vyra, from his uncle Vasily Ivanovich Rukavishnikov, but lost it in the October Revolution in 1917. After this, Nabokov’s father became a secretary of the Russian Provisional Government in Saint Petersburg. After the October Revolution, the family fled St. Petersburg for Crimea, and lived at a friend’s estate until September 1918 when they moved to Livadiya, at the time part of the Ukrainian Republic; Nabokov’s father became a minister of justice in the Crimean Regional Government.
After the withdrawal of the German Army in November 1918 and the defeat of the White Army (early 1919), the Nabokovs sought exile in western Europe. They settled briefly in England and Vladimir enrolled in Trinity College of the University of Cambridge, first studying zoology, then Slavic and Romance languages. His examination results on the first part of the Tripos, taken at the end of second year, were a starred first. He sat the second part of the exam in his fourth year, just after his father’s death which was marked second-class. His final examination result was second-class, and his BA conferred in 1922. Nabokov later drew on his Cambridge experiences to write several works, including the novels Glory and The Real Life of Sebastian Knight.
In 1920, Nabokov’s family moved to Berlin, where his father set up the émigré newspaper Rul’ (“Rudder”). Nabokov followed them to Berlin two years later, after completing his studies at Cambridge. Unfortunately Nabokov’s father was fatally shot in Berlin in 1922 by the Russian monarchist Pyotr Shabelsky-Bork as he was trying to shield the real target, Pavel Milyukov, a leader of the Constitutional Democratic Party-in-exile. Shortly after this, Nabokov’s mother and sister moved to Prague, however Nabokov stayed in Berlin, where he had become a recognised poet and writer within the émigré community and published under the nom de plume V. Sirin (a reference to the fabulous bird of Russian folklore). Nabokov also taught languages and gave tennis and boxing lessons. He stayed in Berlin for fifteen years within the lively Russian community of Berlin He knew little German and few Germans except for landladies, shopkeepers, and immigration officials at the police headquarters
In 1922, Nabokov became engaged to Svetlana Siewert; she broke off the engagement in early 1923, her parents worrying that he could not provide for her. In May 1923, he met a Russian-Jewish woman, Véra Evseyevna Slonim, at a charity ball in Berlin. They married in April 1925. Their only child, Dmitri, was born in 1934. In 1936, Véra lost her job because of the increasingly anti-Semitic environment; also in that year the assassin of Nabokov’s father was appointed second-in-command of the Russian émigré group. In 1937, he left Germany for France, where he had a short affair with Russian émigrée Irina Guadanini. His family followed him to France, making en route their last visit to Prague, then spent time in Cannes, Menton, Cap d’Antibes, and Fréjus and finally settled in Paris. Between 1926–38 Nabokov also wrote His first nine novels in Russian. In May 1940, the Nabokovs fled the advancing German troops to the United States on board the SS Champlain, with the exception of Nabokov’s brother Sergei, who died at the Neuengamme concentration camp on 9 January 1945.
The Nabokovs settled in Manhattan and Vladimir began volunteer work as an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History. e Nabokovs resided in Wellesley, Massachusetts, during the 1941–42 academic year, Whereupon Nabokov joined the staff of Wellesley College in 1941 as resident lecturer in comparative literature and Nabokov is remembered as the founder of Wellesley’s Russian Department. In September 1942 they moved to Cambridge, where they lived until June 1948. Following a lecture tour through the United States, Nabokov returned to Wellesley for the 1944–45 academic year as a lecturer in Russian. In 1945, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He served through the 1947–48 term as Wellesley’s one-man Russian Department, offering courses in Russian language and literature. He was also the curator of lepidoptery at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. In 1948 Nabokov left Wellesley to teach Russian and European literature at Cornell University, where he taught until 1959. Among his students at Cornell was future U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In June 1953 Nabokov and his family went to Ashland, Oregon. There he finished Lolita and began writing the novel Pnin. He roamed the nearby mountains looking for butterflies, and wrote a poem called Lines Written in Oregon. On 1 October 1953, he and his family returned to Ithaca, New York, where he would later teach the young writer Thomas Pynchon
In 1955 Nabokov wrote Lolita while travelling on butterfly-collection trips in the western United States that he undertook every summer. Véra acted as “secretary, typist, editor, proofreader, translator and bibliographer; his agent, business manager, legal counsel and chauffeur; his research assistant, teaching assistant and professorial understudy”. Lolita became a great financial success and Nabokov returned to Europe and devoted himself to writing. His son obtained a position as an operatic bass at Reggio Emilia. On 1 October 1961, he and Véra moved to the Montreux Palace Hotel in Montreux, Switzerland; he stayed there until the end of his life. In 1962 he published Pale Fire. He also took tours to the Alps, Corsica, and Sicily to hunt butterflies and became an expert lepidopterist. Sadly In 1976 he was hospitalized with a fever doctors were unable to diagnose. He was rehospitalized in Lausanne in 1977, suffering from severe bronchial congestion. He died on 2 July in Montreux surrounded by his family His remains were cremated and buried at the Clarens cemetery in Montreux.
At the time of his death, he was working on a novel titled The Original of Laura. Véra and Dmitri which were entrusted with Nabokov’s literary executorship, In April 2008, Dmitri announced that he would publish the novel and The Original of Laura was published on 17 November 2009. Prior to this, several short excerpts of The Original of Laura were made public: German weekly Die Zeit reproduced some of Nabokov’s original index cards obtained by its reporter Malte Herwig in its 14 August 2008 issue. In the accompanying article Herwig concluded that Laura, although fragmentary, is “vintage Nabokov”. Lolita has since been ranked fourth in the list of the Modern Library 100 Best Novels in 2007 pale Fire was also ranked 53rd on the same list; and his memoir, Speak, Memory (1951), was listed eighth on publisher Random House’s list of the 20th century’s greatest nonfiction He was a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction seven time
Nabokov became known as one of the leading prose stylists of the 20th century and is noted for his complex plots, clever word play, daring metaphors, and prose style capable of both parody and intense lyricism. He gained both fame and notoriety with his novel Lolita (1955), which tells of a grown man’s devouring 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. His longest novel, which met with a mixed response, is Ada (1969). He devoted more time to the composition of this novel than any of his others. Nabokov’s fiction is characterized by linguistic playfulness. His short story “The Vane Sisters” is famous in part for its acrostic final paragraph, in which the first letters of each word spell out a message from beyond the grave. In another of his short stories, “Signs andSymbols”, Nabokov creates a character suffering from an imaginary illness called “Referential Mania,” in which the afflicted is faced with a world of environmental objects exchanging coded messages.