Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Nabokov, Vladimir Vladimirovich


(also published under the pen name Vladimir Sirin). Born Apr. 12(24), 1899, in St. Petersburg. Died July 2, 1977, in Montreux, Switzerland. American writer and literary scholar. Son of V. D. Nabokov.

Until 1940, Nabokov wrote in Russian; thereafter, he also wrote in English. He emigrated in 1919, living in Great Britain (1919–22), Germany (1922–37), France (1937–40), and the USA (1940–59). In 1959 he went to live in Switzerland. He had graduated from Cambridge University in 1922.

Nabokov won fame after the publication of the novel Mashenka (Mary; 1926). Among his most interesting works are the lyrical short stories in Chorb’s Return (1930); the novella The Defense (1929–30), which describes the tragic life of a phenomenal chess player; the novels Camera Obscura (Laughter in the Dark; 1932–33) and Despair (1934; separate edition, 1936); and various short stories written during the 1930’s, which reveal the spiritual degeneration of fascist Germany. The novel The Gift (1937; separate edition, 1952) presents a tendentiously distorted portrait of N. G. Chernyshevskii.

Nabokov’s books are characterized by literary snobbery and abound with literary allusions. The influence of A. Belyi, M. Proust, and F. Kafka is felt in his prose (for example, Invitation to a Beheading, 1935–36; separate edition, 1938). One of the most striking expressions of modernism in literature, Nabokov’s work is “elitist” and directed at “the chosen.” This is true of the novels Pnin (1957) and Ada (1969), as well as of the best seller Lolita (1955), an experiment in combining the erotic novel with the novel of manners.

Nabokov translated a number of works of Russian classical poetry into English, including The Tale of Igor’s Campaign and A. S. Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (three volumes with commentaries, 1964). His memoirs were originally published under the title Conclusive Evidence (1951; in Russian translation, Drugie beregá, 1954).


Korol’, Dama, Valet. Berlin, 1928.
Podvig. Paris, 1932.
Sogliadatai. Paris, 1938.
Nicolai Gogol. New York, 1944.
Vesna ν Fial’te i drugie rasskazy. New York, 1956.
Stikhotvoreniia. Paris, 1952.
Poems. New York, 1962.
Speak, Memory. New York, 1966.


Tvardovskii, A. “O Bunine.” In I. A. Bunin, Sobr. soch., vol. 1. Moscow, 1965.
“Evgenii Onegin ν SShA.” Za rubezhom, 1964, no. 38.
Mikhailov, O. “Vernost’.” Nash sovremennik, 1974, no. 1, pp. 154–57.
Stegner, P. The Art of V. Nabokov. New York, 1966.
Rowe, W. W. Nabokov’s Deceptive World. New York, 1971.
Moynahan, J. Vladimir Nabokov. Minneapolis, 1971.
Zimmer, D. E. V. Nabokov: Bibliographie des Gesamtwerks. Hamburg, 1964.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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