Vladimir Nabokov

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Novelist, polyglot, genius, and (occasionally) right bastard; and a close relative of the authors V. Sirin and Vivian Darkbloom. Born in Russia in 1899, Nabokov was forced to flee the country at the age of 19, due to some revolution or other, which left him with very anti-communist feelings. He spent the next two decades in Europe writing novels in Russian, then brought his family to the United States, where he taught literature and wrote novels in English (making him one of very few authors to be able to write good literature in more than one language). The controversial subject matter of one of these made him very famous, and he was able to quit teaching and write full time. Eventually he settled in Switzerland, where he continued writing novels in English, and died in 1977.

He experienced synesthesia (in his case, he saw letters as colors), and was an accomplished amateur lepidopterist (that means he loved butterflies). Nabokov's study of butterflies was significant enough that an entire genus of butterflies, Nabokovia, was named after him. He was also very fond of unreliable narrators.

Novels written in Russian:

  • Mary (a story of memory and first love, as well as a snapshot of emigre life, made into a film starring Cary Elwes)
  • King, Queen, Knave (a story of adultery with a playing card motif)
  • The Defense (metatextual portrait of a chess prodigy, made into a film starring John Turturro)
  • The Eye
  • Glory
  • Laughter In The Dark (originally published as Camera Obscura, a story about a poisonous relationship, made into a film by Tony Richardson)
  • Despair (thriller involving doppelgangers, one of Nabokov's favorite themes, adapted into a film by Tom Stoppard)
  • Invitation to a Beheading (Kafkaesque tale of a man in a baffling prison for the crime of nonconformity)
  • The Gift
  • The Enchanter (written in 1939 but unpublished until 1985, it shares many themes and events with the later Lolita)

Novels written in English:

  • The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (the story of a man's attempt to write a biography of his brother, a dead novelist; also the biography itself)
  • Bend Sinister (dystopian novel set in a fictional European nation)
  • Lolita
  • Pnin
  • Pale Fire
  • Ada or Ardor (Nabokov's Doorstopper, an epic tale of obsessed love in an alternate 19th century)
  • Transparent Things
  • Look at the Harlequins! (the autobiography of a novelist eerily similar to Nabokov in many ways and dramatically different in others)
  • The Original of Laura (incomplete, and published posthumously by his son, after 30 years of soul searching as Nabokov wanted the rough draft destroyed after his death)

He is also the author of numerous short stories, poems, plays, lectures, translations, and biographies (Nikolai Gogol's and his own). Incidentally, he said his first name rhymes with "redeemer" and his last name is pronounced "nuh-BOCK-off," though English-speakers rarely pronounce it that way.