Vladimir Nabokov: Contribution as American Novelist

Also Read

      Vladimir Nabokov (1889-1977) was an Eastern European immigrant. Born into an affluent family at St Pittsburg, in Czarist Russia, his father was the member of Russian Constituent Assembly, moved the family to exile in 1919, following the start of Bolshevik Revolution and the White Army’s defeat in Crimea. Nabokov studied the modern languages in Trinity College, Cambridge between 1919-22 and while living in Berlin and Paris produced critically acclaimed canon of poems, short stories and novels written in Russian and published under the pseudonym of V. Sirin.

      The second phase of career began in 1940 when he came to the United States in 1940 and gained U.S” citizenship five years later. He got settled in Boston and began teaching Russian literature at Wellesley College and published his first novel in English The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941) and wrote many of his shorts stories and poems, which he appeared in periodicals such as New Yorker. His second novel was Bend Sinister (1947). In 1948, he became a professor of Russian literature. From 1948 to 1959 he taught literal le at Cornell University in upstate New York. In 1960, he moved permanently to Switzerland. During his tenure he published his first memoir, Conclusive Evidence (1951) and expanded and revised under the title Speak Memory (1966). Lolita (1955) became his most popular success. It grew from the underground cult status of a book which might be prosecuted on its publication in the USA to the critical acclaim of a serious masterpiece, enabled him to move to Switzerland. While working steadily on the translation Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (1964), he wrote three more novels - Pnin (1957), about the emigre teacher, baffled by the USA as the hero of Lolita. Pale Fire (1962) is the next in succession. Lolita (J.S. edition 1958) is about an ineffectual Russian emigre professor, and an educated, middle-aged European who becomes infatuated with Lolita an ignorant 12 year- old American girl.

      Nabokov’s pastiche novel, Pale Fire (1962), another successful venture, focuses on a long poem by an imaginary dead poet John Shade and the commentaries on it by a critic whose writings overwhelm the poem and take on unexpected lives of their own. The novel ingeniously explores the discrepancies between the poet’s autobiographical poem and commentary by its posthumous editor, Charles Kinbote. Ada or Arlor: A Family Chronicle (1969), another edited text of maze like design, is set in Amerussia on the planet Antiterra. Nabokov’s Dozen (1958) and Nobokov’s Quartet (1966) are collections of short stories. He also supervised the translation of his English novels into Russian by his The Enchanter shows links with the masterpiece Lolita. This was lost for thirty years and published in 1987.

      Nabokov is the most important writer for his stylistic subtlety, deft satire and ingenious innovations in form which have inspired such novelists as John Barth. He was aware of his role as a mediator between the Russian and American literary worlds. He wrote a book on Gogol, the Great Russian painter and translated Pushkin’s Eugene O’Neill. His daring somewhat expressionist subjects, like the odd love in Lolita, helped introduce expressionist 20th-century European currents into the essentially realist tone, partly satirical and partly nostalgic, also suggested a new serio-comic emotional register made use of by writers such as Pynchon, who combines the opposing notes of wit and fear.

Previous Post Next Post