Vladimir Nabokov

Yuly Aykhenvald

Yuly Aykhenvald (1872-1928) was Nabokov's friend and mentor in Berlin in the 1920s. He was editor of Rul' 's literary department 1922-1928, where he published weekly literary reflections, and author of the very popular Silhouettes of Russian Writers (1906, five editions through 1928). He began his career as a philosopher, translating Arthur Schopenhauer's complete works into Russian, and serving as Secretary of the important neo-idealist philosophical group, the Moscow Psychological Society, and scholarly secretary of its influential journal Problems of Philosophy and Psychology.  He was especially well-known for a critical evaluation of the early Russian critic Vissarion Belinsky, an episode mentioned in The Gift and reflected in its Chernyshevsky chapter; Aykhenvald also appears in Speak, Memory, where Nabokov calls him a "Russian Walter Pater," and, stylized, in the story "The Passenger"; Nabokov also wrote a (yet unpublished) poem dedicated to Aykhenvald. With Raisa Tatarinova, he formed the Berlin literary circle where Nabokov first read many  of his works in the 1920s and early '30s. In addition to his Silhouettes, he published eleven other books and pamphlets, and among these, the essays from the collection In Praise of Idleness (1922) and the introduction to Silhouettes (1911) display a series of ideas that would also become central to Nabokov's thought and methods as a writer and a student of literature.  Aykhenvald was, alongside Nabokov's father, an important member of the Kadet party.