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Vladimir Nabokov
by Barbara Wyllie
Reaktion Books, 2010
eISBN: 978-1-86189-728-2 | Paper: 978-1-86189-660-5


Best known for his deeply controversial 1955 novel, Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) is celebrated as one of the most distinctive literary stylists of the twentieth century. In Vladimir Nabokov, Barbara Wyllie presents a comprehensive account of the life and works of the writer, from his childhood and earliest stories in pre-revolutionary Russia, to The Original of Laura—a novel written almost entirely on index cards published for the first time in 2009, perhaps against Nabokov’s wishes.

            This literary biography investigates the author’s poetry and prose, in both Russian and English, and examines the relationship between Nabokov’s extraordinary erudition and the themes that recur throughout his works.  His expertise as a specialist in butterflies complemented his wide knowledge of Russian and Western European culture, philosophy, and history, and informed the themes of transformation and transcendence that dominate his work. Wyllie traces his lifelong preoccupations with time, memory, and mortality across both his Russian and English works, and she illuminates his distinctive through detailed analysis of his major novels. Wyllie assesses his poetry and prose style alongside Nabokov’s own autobiography, letters, and critical writings—as well as the only recently-published The Original of Laura—in order to create a complete and updated picture of the writer in the context of his works.

            Vladimir Nabokov presents a fascinating portrait of one of the twentieth century’s most eclectic, prolific, and controversial authors. It is an essential read for fans of Nabokov and scholars of twentieth century English and Russian literature.

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