NABOKV-L post 0005932, Tue, 24 Apr 2001 13:42:21 -0700

[Fwd: A current and past item of interest]

Sandy Klein wrote:

> Wellesley College Russian Department
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Celebrate the 100th Birthday
> of Vladimir Nabokov
> April 23 & 24
> Friday, April 23
> PRESENTATION: "Nabokov-Lepidopterist: Butterfly Walk." Speaker:
> Charles Remington, Yale University. 12:30 pm, Collins Cinema.
> DISCUSSION: "Mister Nabokov: Remembered by Wellesley Students Past and
> Present" and "A Nabokovian Paperchase: Nabokov's Wellesleyan Papers
> and Artifacts." 3 pm, Collins Cinema and 4 pm, Library Entrance.
> LECTURE: "Nabokov's Russian Lolita: Self-Translation as
> Self-Interpretation." Speaker: Alexander Dolinin, University of
> Wisconsin-Madison. 5 pm, Founders 120.
> Saturday, April 24
> FILM: "Lolita" directed by Adrian Lyne. Speaker: Stephen Schiff,
> screenwriter. 1:30 pm, Collins Cinema.
> DISCUSSION: "Lolita in Print and on Screen." Speakers: Stephen Schiff,
> screenwriter; Alexander Dolinin, University of Wisconsin-Madison;
> Ellen Pifer, University of Maryland; Adam Weiner, Russian. 4 pm,
> Collins Cinema.
> The Celebration is sponsored by: Edwards Fund, Davis Fund for Russian
> Area Studies.
> For more information, contact: (781) 283-2419.
> -----------------------------------------------------------------------

Vladimir Nabokov
Week of January 8, 2001

[Photo by Gertrude Fehr] Nabokov was born in April 1899 in St.
Petersburg, Russia. His parents were
[125th logo] wealthy and had a commitment to public service. Nabokov, who
categorized himself as "a perfectly normal trilingual child in a
family with a large library," attended the Tenishev School in
St. Petersburg, the most advanced and expensive school in
Russia. In addition to his avid participation in sports, Nabokov
indulged in what would become a life-long passion for him≈
butterfly collecting.

In November 1917, after the abdication of Tsar Nicholas, the
family fled to a friend's estate in the Crimea. Nabokov's
[Image] father, Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, a leader of the Kadet
party, accepted a position in the provisional government. When
the Bolsheviks took over, the family fled to England. Nabokov
attended Trinity College, Cambridge, studying ichthyology and
French and Russian literature.

The family settled in Berlin which had a large Russian йmigrй
community. Nabokov began writing poetry and short fiction, using
the pseudonym of V.I. Sirin. He also earned money by giving
tennis and English lessons, acting, and translating. He
published his first scholarly article on butterflies in The
Entomologist, and composed the first Russian crossword puzzles.
On April 15, 1925, he married Vйra Slonim. Their son, Dmitri,
was born in 1934.

Soon, world events forced him into exile again. In 1937 Nabokov
and his family fled Hitler's Germany for Paris. The 1940 German
invasion of France forced them to flee once more≈ this time to
New York. In the U.S., Nabokov taught, collected and studied
butterflies, and wrote. He became a U.S. citizen in 1945.

Nabokov came to Wellesley College in 1941[Nabokov in Green Hall]
for a year as a lecturer in comparative
literature. He returned to teach Russian, first in a non-credit
course (spring of 1943), then as a regular part of the
curriculum. In addition to the introductory course, as the sole
member of the newly formed Russian Department, he taught courses
on Russian poetry and prose in translation. While at Wellesley
College, Nabokov also held an appointment at the Museum of
Comparative Zoology at Harvard. In 1948 Nabokov went to Cornell
as chair of the department of comparative literature.

At Wellesley, Nabokov's courses were very popular. One of his
students, Hannah Green '48, talked about being in his class in a
February 1977 New Yorker article. "He didn't talk about conflict
or symbols or character development," she said. "He didn't talk
about the things that were usually talked about in literature
courses. He didn't try to make us state the underlying meaning
of something. He didn't make us talk about themes. He never took
the joy out of reading... In the gayest, most natural way in the
world, he opened the door and led us into the world of Russian
literature. He taught us to take literature seriously and what
is ordinarily said about it lightly. He gave me back my passion
for reading."

An insomniac, Nabokov did most of his writing at night. Zembla,
a web site devoted to Nabokov contains a list of his works and
critical comment on them. His publications included poetry,
translations, essays, short stories, novels, plays, and
scholarly treatises on butterflies. His autobiography,
Conclusive Evidence: A Memoir (1951) was first published in
England as Speak, Memory: A Memoir.

Nabokov's best known work, Lolita, a novel about a man's affair
with his twelve-year old stepdaughter, initally was refused by
four American publishers as too scandalous. It was eventually
published in Paris in 1955 by Olympia Press; the American
edition appeared in 1958. The success of the book and the
subsequent movie version gave Nabokov the financial security to
give up teaching. He moved to Switzerland in 1959.

[Vladimir and Vera Nabokov with Wellesley students, 1942] Nabokov
died on
July 2, 1977, in Montreux, Switzerland, leaving behind a unique
literary legacy. The New York Times obituary explained that "his
writing often perplexed his readers. 'For some weeks now I have
been floundering and traveling in the mind of that American
genius, Vladimir Vladimirovitch Nabokov,' wrote the critic
Alfred Kazin on reading the writer's novel Ada in 1969. His
remark echoed the attitude of many readers... These readers
recognized Mr. Nabokov's technical brilliance and mastery of
form, but were frequently baffled by his irrepressible sense of
flippancy and his penchant for parody. Was he, it was asked, a
gifted artificer entranced by fun and games, or was he a
creative and profound artist?"

Perhaps a 1977 article in Time said it best: "[Nabokov's]
challenging, intricate fiction, which miraculously demonstrates
that art is not a mirror held up to nature, but rather a prism
that refracts blinding reality into rainbows of wisdom and

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