Hi everyone, I hope you’re having an amazing day. Today we will talk about 10 interesting facts about Vladimir Nabokov. He was a renowned novelist and is largely associated with the scandalous novel “Lolita”. As we know Lolita was banned in a number of countries once it was published. His novel suffered certain criticism yet many praised it.
Nonetheless, the book is a bestseller since it often outshines the man behind the pages, the great American-Russian writer, Vladimir Nabokov.
In his biographic works, he describes himself as “an American writer, born in Russia, educated in England, where I studied French literature before moving to Germany for fifteen years”. And this is only one fact of his fascinating life. Here are 10 facts about Vladimir Nabokov I bet you didn’t know.
10 Interesting Facts About Vladimir Nabokov
1- He was Obsessed with Butterflies
He loves to catch butterflies in his early childhood. I mean who doesn’t love butterflies, they are cute and beautiful. His impressive collection gathered about 4,000 different types of butterflies. Moreover, 20 of those were his own discoveries which he named later after the characters of his novels.
“Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.” -Vladimir Nabokov
2- His last wish was not fulfilled
The writer manages work-related stuff and paid a lot of attention to the literary qualities of Vladimir. Since Nabokov wasn’t the man to settle for the second-best. Out of these beliefs, he wanted his last novel to be burnt, that’s right. The Original of Laura would have been burnt after Nabokov’s death but things did not turn out as he wished so.
His wife did not fulfill his wishes and kept it, then she asked his son to burn it after her death. But it’s life and Karma always hit you, luckily for readers, their son did not obey his parent’s last wish and published the novel 32 years after Nabokov’s death. Interesting, no?
3- He was a descendant of Russian nobility
Vladimir was born into a wealthy family of St Petersburg nobility. His father was a lawyer and politician, one of the leaders of the Constitutional Democratic Party. His mother was from the Rukavishnikov family that made their wealth in gold mining.
The family lived in a mansion on Bolshaya Morskaya Street in St Petersburg, where Nabokov spent the first 18 years of his life. Their home has now been transformed into a museum dedicated to the writer.
4- Vladimir held dual citizenship
Vladimir Nabokov was forced to move across countries throughout his life. The Nabokov family decided to immigrate when he was fairly young. As the Russian revolution struck in 1917, the family moved to Crimea, to wait for the political troubles to calm down. But they didn’t and the family left Russia forever.
The family moved to Germany, while Nabokov completed his education at Cambridge University. He then also joined them in Berlin and got married. Prior to the Second World War, as the antisemitic movement grew, the family moved to France and then to the USA, where the Nabokovs were granted citizenship. His last home was Switzerland where Nabokov died in 1977.
5- He was a passionate chess player
We all have different hobbies just like that Nabokov took this hobby very seriously, and passionately. He played chess enthusiastically throughout his life. He spent most of his childhood time composing chess problems and solutions. Later in his life, in the 1970s, he began composing chess problems again and publishing them in the journal The Problemist. 18 of his problems were later published in the book Poems and Problems.
6- He had a talent for languages
Since he was born rich and in high society, it was common practice to use a number of languages. He learned to read in English before he could read in Russian. Thus from a young age, Nabokov spoke English, French, and Russian. Nabokov would say about himself: “My head speaks English, my heart speaks Russian and my ear speaks French”. Although he first started writing in Russian, after immigrating Nabokov then switched to English.
He was the only Russian writer who could write in English just as well as he did in his native language. Nabokov translated some of his works himself, but rather than doing verbatim translation he would rewrite to adjust to the language. Such was the case with his scandalous novel Lolita.
7- He has a literary award named after him
The PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature awards $50 000 to a writer born or residing outside of the US, whose work was written or translated into English. These works have the aim of “[evoking] to some measure Nabokov’s brilliant versatility and commitment to literature as a search for the deepest truth and the highest pleasure”. The award is supported by the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation, founded by Nabokov’s son, Dmitri.
8- He first suggested the smiley
Our messaging cannot be imagined without the smiley: a simple combination of the colon, a hyphen, and a closing bracket that adds positive emotion to any ordinary message. Few of us imagine that the idea to use the smile came from Vladimir Nabokov.
In a 1969 interview, Nabokov mentioned that written language needs a symbol that would represent a smile, to graphically display emotion. He never implemented his idea though, only in 1982 was the smiley first used on a bulletin board of Melon Carnegie University.
9- He was a teacher
Nabokov proved to not only be a talented creator of literature but also had an in-depth understanding of the world’s literary past. In the 1940-50s, Nabokov taught a course of Russian literature in translation at Cornell University. After his death, with the help of his wife and son, his lectures were published in English. Among them are Lectures on Russian Literature and Lectures on Don Quixote.
10- He completed translation work
It would have been a shame not to put Nabokov’s linguistic skills to good use, but luckily he did. One of his first major translation works was translating Alice in Wonderland into Russian. He then contributed greatly to the translation of Russian literature into English.
Among his translations are many poems by Pushkin, Lermontov, and Tutchev that he published in a joint book called Three Russian Poets. He translated A Hero of Our Time, a major novel of Lermontov, the 15th-century Russian epic The Tale of Igor’s Campaign, and Pushkin’s monumental work Eugene Onegin with extensive commentary.
Have a great day ahead 🙂