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Nabokov, Vladimir (vlädēˈmĭr näbôˈkŏf), 1899–1977, Russian-American author, b. St. Petersburg, Russia. He emigrated to England after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and graduated from Cambridge in 1922. He moved to the United States in 1940. From 1948 to 1959 he was professor of Russian literature at Cornell. He moved to Switzerland in 1959.
One of the great novelists of the 20th cent., Nabokov was an extraordinarily imaginative writer, often experimenting with the form of the novel. Although his works are frequently obscure and puzzling—filled with grotesque incidents, word games, and literary allusions—they are always erudite, witty, and intriguing. Before 1940, Nabokov wrote in Russian under the name V. Sirin. Among his early novels are Mary (1926, tr. 1970) and Invitation to a Beheading (1938, tr. 1959). His first book in English was The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1938).
Nabokov's most widely known work is undoubtedly Lolita (1958). The story of a middle-aged European intellectual's infatuation with a 12-year-old American “nymphet,” Lolita was considered scandalous when it was first published. Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle (1969) is a philosophical novel that is both the chronicle of a long incestuous love affair and a probe into the nature of time. Among Nabokov's other novels are Bend Sinister (1947), Pnin (1957), Transparent Things (1972), and Look at the Harlequins! (1974). His unfinished final novel, which he wanted destroyed, was published as The Original of Laura (2009).
Nabokov's volumes of poetry include Poems and Problems (1970) and the posthumous Selected Poems (2012). Among collections of his short stories are Nine Stories (1947), Nabokov's Dozen (1958), and A Russian Beauty (1973); many of them are gathered in The Stories of Vladimir Nobokov (1995). Among his other writings are his first major work, a play entitled The Tragedy of Mister Morn (1923–24), posthumously published in Russian (1997) and English (2013). His other works include a critical study of Gogol (1944); translations from the Russian, notably a four-volume version of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (1964); and several autobiographical volumes, most notably Speak, Memory (1966). His college lectures, posthumously published, include Lectures on Literature: British, French, and German Writers (1980) and Lectures on Russian Literature (1981).
Nabokov also was an internationally recognized lepidopterist. He and his wife collected hundreds of species of butterflies, and he was the curator of lepidoptera at Harvard's Museum of Comparative Zoology. In the years since his death, his scientific stature has grown. His theories of the evolution and classification of the Polyommatus blue butterfly, once discredited, have since been shown by genetic studies to be remarkably accurate.
See B. Boyd and A. Tolstoy, ed., Think, Write, Speak: Uncollected Essays, Reviews, Interviews and Letters to the Editor (2019); selected letters ed. by M. J. Bruccoli and D. Nabokov (1989) and letters to his wife ed. by B. Boyd (2015); biography by B. Boyd (2 vol., 1990–91); studies by A. Field (1967), W. W. Rowe (1971), D. Fowler (1974), L. Toker (1989), M. Wood (1995), M. Maar (tr. 2010), and R. Roper (2015); B. Boyd and R. M. Pyle, ed., Nabokov's Butterflies (2000); J. W. Connolly, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Nabokov (2005). See also biography of his wife by S. Schiff (1999).
Nabokov, Vladimir Dmitrievich
Born in 1869 in Tsarskoe Selo, now Pushkin; died Mar. 28, 1922, in Berlin. Russian criminologist and political figure.
After graduating from the faculty of law at the University of St. Petersburg in 1890, Nabokov served in the chancellery of the State Council. From 1896 to 1904 he was a professor of criminal law in the Jurisprudence College, editor of the bourgeois-liberal legal journals Pravo and Vestnik prava, and a contributor to the journal Osvobozhdenie. Because he defended persons in tsarist courts, he was deprived of his aristocratic title of kammerherr in 1904.
Nabokov took part in the Zemstvo congresses of 1904–05 and in the Union of Liberation. He was one of the founders of the Constitutional Democratic Party (Cadets) and cochairman of its central committee and editor and publisher of its organ, Vestnik partii narodnoi svobody, as well as of the newspaper Rech’. He was a deputy to the First State Duma and a signer of the Vyborg Appeal. Nabokov was brought to trial for his correspondence relating to the Beilis case in 1913.
After the February Revolution of 1917, Nabokov managed the affairs of the bourgeois Provisional Government. After the October Revolution, in accordance with the decree of the Soviet government of November 28 (December 11) regarding leaders of the Cadet Party, he was subject to arrest. In December 1917 he went into hiding in Gaspra, in the Crimea. In 1919 he became minister of justice in the bourgeois nationalist government of the Crimea.
Nabokov, in emigration after 1920, joined the right wing of the Cadet Party. With I. V. Gessen he published the newspaper Rul’ in Berlin. He was killed by a monarchist émigré. Nabokov’s memoirs about the Provisional Government were reprinted in Moscow in 1924.
A. S. NARKHOV