Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years

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Princeton University Press, 1990 - Biography & Autobiography - 607 pages

This first major critical biography of Vladimir Nabokov, one of the greatest of twentieth-century writers, finally allows us full access to the dramatic details of his life and the depths of his art. An intensely private man, Nabokov was uprooted first by the Russian Revolution and then by World War II. Transformed into a permanent wanderer, he did not achieve fame until late in life, with the success of Lolita. In this first of two volumes, Brian Boyd vividly describes the liberal milieu of the aristocratic Nabokovs, their escape from Russia, Nabokov's education at Cambridge, and the murder of his father in Berlin. Boyd then turns to the years that Nabokov spent, impoverished, in Germany and France, until the coming of Hitler forced him to flee, with wife and son, to the United States. This volume stands on its own as a fascinating exploration of Nabokov's Russian years and Russian worlds, prerevolutionary and émigré.

In the course of his ten years' work on the biography, Boyd traveled along Nabokov's trail everywhere from Yalta to Palo Alto. The only scholar to have had free access to the Nabokov archives in Montreux and the Library of Congress, he also interviewed at length Nabokov's family and scores of his friends and associates.

For the general reader, Boyd offers an introduction to Nabokov the man, his works, and his world. For the specialist, he provides a basis for all future research on Nabokov's life and art, as he dates and describes the composition of all Nabokov's works, published and unpublished.

Boyd investigates Nabokov's relation to and his independence from his time, examines the special structures of his mind and thought, and explains the relations between his philosophy and his innovations of literary strategy and style. At the same time he provides succinct introductions to all the fiction, dramas, memoirs, and major verse; presents detailed analyses of the major books that break new ground for the scholar, while providing easy paths into the works for other readers; and shows the relationship between Nabokov's life and the themes and subjects of his art.


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Vladimir Nabokov: the Russian years

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

This is the first volume of a detailed critical biography of the Russian-born author of Lolita ( LJ 8/58) and Pale Fire ( LJ 5/15/62). Boyd's analysis of Nabokov's works is bracing, but his summary of ... Read full review

Review: Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years (Vladimir Nabokov #1)

User Review  - Paul - Goodreads

Interesting, but sometimes TMI on minutae Read full review


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Berlin 19271929
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Berlin 19301932
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Berlin 19341937
France 1937
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About the author (1990)

Brian Boyd is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of English at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He is the author of the prize-winning Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years (Princeton 1990), Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years (Princeton 1991), and Nabokov's Ada: The Place of Consciousness. Referred to in a recent journal as "the great man of Nabokov studies," he has also edited Nabokov's English novels and autobiography for the Library of America and Nabokov's Butterflies for Beacon Press.

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