|Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)
Vladimir Nabokov was born in St Petersburg into an aristocratic Russian family. In 1919, after the defeat of the White Army in Crimea, his family left for Western Europe.
Nabokov studied Romance and Slavic languages at Cambridge University from 1919 to 1922. In 1922, he moved to Berlin, where he lived until 1937. During the Berlin years, he published a few novels among which Mashenka (1926) and Dar (The Gift) in 1937.
He married in 1925, and moved with his family - his wife Vera and son Dmitri - to Paris in 1937, where he wrote his first novel in English, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941).
In 1940, Nabokov moved with his family to Boston. He was teacher of Russian for seven years, and in 1948 he became professor of Russian and European literature at Cornell University. Meanwhile, he wrote and published 18 papers on entomology, as he acquired international recognition as a lepidopterist.
Nabokov became a US citizen in 1945. His most famous novel, Lolita, appeared in France in 1955 and was not published in the US and the UK until 1958, as it was considered unfit for those countries. Lolita tells the story of Humbert Humbert and his overpowering desire to possess very young girls. Lolita soon became a best-seller and Nabokov was able to leave his post at Cornell and to concentrate on his literary work.
Among his late novels are Pnin (1957), Pale Fire (1962), Ada (1969). Nabokov was also an established literary critic. His more important critical works are a book about Nikolay Gogol (1944) and a monumental translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (1964). Worth of notice is also his autobiography, Speak Memory (1967).
Nabokov received the American National Medal for Literature in 1977. He died in the same year in Montreux, Switzerland, where he had moved with his family in 1959.