For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

by Cat
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov by Cat
“I was the shadow of the waxwing slain by the false azure of the windowpane; I was the smudge of ashen fluff — and I Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky. And from the inside, too, I’d duplicate Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate: Uncurtaining the night, I’d let dark glass Hang all the furniture above the grass, And how delightful when a fall of snow Covered my glimpse of lawn and reached up so As to make chair and bed exactly stand Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!” ’Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (23 April [O.S. 10 April] 1899– 2 July 1977) was a multilingual Russian-American novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his… Read more

“I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
by the false azure of the windowpane;
I was the smudge of ashen fluff — and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.
And from the inside, too, I’d duplicate
Myself, my lamp, an apple on a plate:
Uncurtaining the night, I’d let dark glass
Hang all the furniture above the grass,
And how delightful when a fall of snow
Covered my glimpse of lawn and reached up so
As to make chair and bed exactly stand
Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!”

’Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (23 April [O.S. 10 April] 1899– 2 July 1977) was a multilingual Russian-American novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist. He also made contributions to entomology and had an interest in chess problems.

Nabokov’s Lolita (1955) is frequently cited as among his most important novels and is his most widely known, exhibiting the love of intricate word play and synesthetic detail that characterised all his works.’

On having synaethesia:
“…And also I have this rather freakish gift of seeing letters in colors. it’s called color hearing. Perhaps one in a thousand has that. But I’m told by psychologists that most children have it, that later they lose that aptitude when they are are told by stupid parents that it’s all nonsense, an A isn’t black, a B isn’t brown — don’t be absurd.”

On the pronunciation of Nabokov:
“It is indeed a tricky name. It is often misspelt, because the eye tends to regard the ‘a’ of the first syllable as a misprint and the tries to restore the symmetrical sequence by by triplicating the ‘o’ — filling up the row of circles, so to speak, as in a game of crosses and naughts. No-bow-cough. How ugly, how wrong. Every author whose name is fairly often mentioned in periodicals develops a bird-watcher’s or caterpillar-picker’s knack when scanning an article. But in my case I always get caught by the word ‘nobody’ when capitalized at the beginning of a sentence. As to pronunciation, Frenchmen of course say Nabokoff, with the accent on the last syllable. Englishmen say Nabokov, accent on the first, and Italians say Nabokov, accent in the middle as Russians also do. Na-bo-kov. A heavy open ‘o’ as in ‘Knickerbocker’. My New England ear is not offended by the long elegant middle ‘o’ of Nabokov as delivered in American academies. The awful ‘Na-bah-kov’ is a despicable gutterism. Well, you can make your choice now.”

’Nabokov’s first writings were in Russian, but he came to his greatest distinction in the English language. For this achievement, he has been compared with Joseph Conrad; yet Nabokov viewed this as a dubious comparison, as Conrad composed in French and English. Nabokov disdained the comparison for aesthetic reasons, lamenting to the critic Edmund Wilson, “I am too old to change Conradically” — which John Updike later called, “itself a jest of genius.” Nabokov translated many of his own early works into English, sometimes in cooperation with his son Dmitri. His trilingual upbringing had a profound influence on his artistry. He has metaphorically described the transition from one language to another as the slow journey at night from one village to the next with only a candle for illumination. Nabokov himself translated into Russian two books that he had originally written in English, Conclusive Evidence, and Lolita. The first “translation” was made because of Nabokov’s feeling of imperfection in the English version. Writing the book, he noted that he needed to translate his own memories into English, and to spend a lot of time explaining things which are well-known in Russia; then he decided to re-write the book once again, in his first native language, and after that he made the final version, Speak, Memory (Nabokov first wanted to name it “Speak, Mnemosyne”). Nabokov was a proponent of individualism, and rejected concepts and ideologies that curtailed individual freedom and expression, such as totalitarianism in its various forms as well as Freud’s psychoanalysis. Poshlost, or as he transcribed it, poshlust, is disdained and frequently mocked in his works’ —wikipedia

I’ve been obsessed and entranced by Nabokov’s work ever since I read Lolita in my early teens. The unfathomable beauty of his aching lyricism and fantastically devious, playful wordplay prompted me to begin my love affair with literature. What I specifically love about Nabokov’s writing is that every single word in every novel has a specific motive, an inherent purpose, and is evidence of his love of language and poetics. Nabokov is always aware of the reader, the observer, being all at once the tempter and the seducer, the spirited child in awe and the mischievous explorer!

Just for the hell of it, my favourite Nabokov works are ‘Ada or Ardor’, ‘Pale Fire’ and ‘Speak, Memory’.

Films based on Nabokov’s works——-

Read less