Who is Vladimir Nabokov?

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  • Written By: Diana Bocco
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 04 October 2019
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Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on 22 April 1899 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The eldest son of an aristocratic family, Nabokov had access to the best in education and social contact. He was able to speak English and French from an early age, and by the time he graduated from university, he was already well known in literary circles.

Nabokov's family immigrated to Western Europe after the Russian Revolution of 1917, where they continued to play a prominent social and political role. After Nabokov's father was the victim of an assassination mistake, Nabokov left the family home and moved around quite a bit, finally settling in Berlin in 1923. It was there where he met and married VĂ©ra Slonim and where his only son was born eleven years later.

Nabokov stayed in Europe until the beginning of World War II. In 1940, concerned about the German troops taking over, he moved his family to Norfolk County, Massachusetts and took a post in Wellesley College as a resident lecturer. He created the Russian Department and became well-known for his enthusiastic approach to teaching Russian literature and language. He eventually moved to Cornell University, where he had more freedom to write and pursue research. After the publication of Lolita, Nabokov moved back to Europe, setting permanent residence at the luxurious Montreux Palace Hotel in Switzerland, where he died of natural causes on 2 July 1977.


While Nabokov's first works are written in Russian, he is best known for his English-language novels, such as Ada, Pale Fire, and Lolita, which he wrote in English and self-translated into Russian. Many of Nabokov's works deal with cases of mistaken identity, a tribute to the untimely death of his father. Another frequent theme in Nabokov's work is synesthesia, a complicated neurological condition in which two senses are intrinsically attached. Nabokov suffered from synesthesia and so did his son; both associated letters or words with colors. Nabokov has been recognized as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century.


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