Brian J. Buchanan
Nabokov in 90 Minutesby Paul Strathern
Building on his enormously successful series of Philosophers in 90 Minutes, Paul Strathern now applies his witty and incisive prose to brief biographical studies of the world's great writers. He brings their lives and ideas to life in entertaining and accessible fashion. Far from being a novelty, each book is a highly refined appraisal of the writer and his work,
- Editorial Reviews
- Product Details
- Related Subjects
- Read an Excerpt
- What People Are Saying
- Meet the author
Building on his enormously successful series of Philosophers in 90 Minutes, Paul Strathern now applies his witty and incisive prose to brief biographical studies of the world's great writers. He brings their lives and ideas to life in entertaining and accessible fashion. Far from being a novelty, each book is a highly refined appraisal of the writer and his work, authoritative and clearly presented.
Brian J. Buchanan
Katherine A. Powers
Katherine A. Powers
Read an Excerpt
Nabokov IN 90 MINUTES
By Paul Strathern
IVAN R. DEECopyright © 2005 Paul Strathern
All right reserved.
IntroductionVladimir Nabokov's early life was marred by two formative events. On October 24, 1917, the provisional Russian government in which his father was serving was overthrown by the Bolshevik Revolution. Back home that night, the dandified eighteen-year-old Nabokov continued composing a series of love poems to two different girls, but noted later: "As I was writing, fierce rifle fire and the foul crackle of a machine gun could be heard from the street." Next morning, Nabokov rose as usual and set about his daily exercises, sparring with a punchball in his father's library, seemingly oblivious of the occasional gunfire outside in the street. Several armed soldiers broke in through the window, but the butler managed to persuade them that the young man was not a Cossack preparing to ambush them, and escorted them from the room. Nabokov bathed and dressed, then went down to the courtyard, where the family chauffeur and Rolls Royce were waiting to drive him and his younger brother Sergey to school.
Five years later the Nabokov family were living in exile in Berlin. Nabokov's father was running the exile Russian-language newspaper Rul' (The Rudder), which propagated moderate views, condemning both the excesses of the Russian revolutionaries and the extreme right-wing views of the exiled tsarists. On March 28, 1922, Nabokov's father appeared at a public meeting alongside Paul Miliukov, a leader of the moderate faction. Nabokov, now twenty-two, had no interest in such meetings and did not attend. He and his brother Sergey were on holiday from Cambridge University in England, where their fees were being paid by the pearls his mother had managed to smuggle out of Russia when they had fled the revolution.
That March day in 1922 Berlin, the young Vladimir Nabokov recorded in his diary: "I returned home about 9 pm, after a heavenly day. After dinner I sat in the chair by the divan and opened a little volume of Blok. Mother, half-lying, was setting the cards out for patience.... I was reading aloud those tender poems about Italy, about damp, resonant Venice, about Florence, like a smoky iris." The phone rang in the hall, and he went out to answer it, "annoyed that my reading was interrupted."
As a consequence of this phone call, Nabokov learned that the meeting attended by his father had broken up amidst sensational circumstances. An assassin had leapt onto the stage with the intenton of shooting Miliukov. Nabokov's father had realized what was happening and had struggled with the assassin. A second assassin, the fanatical tsarist Sergey Taboritsky, had then shot Nabokov's father, apparently mistaking him for Miliukov. The assassination attempt had failed, but Nabokov's father was dead.
Nabokov was devastated. He had idolized his father and had been very close to him, despite their differing interests. First the Nabokovs had been forced into exile, now the family was dispersed. Nabokov's mother and sisters went to live in Prague, his brother Sergey went to Paris. After graduating from Cambridge, Nabokov himself returned to live in Berlin, where he eked out an existence writing novels and short stories in Russian. In 1936 his father's assassin Sergey Taboritsky was appointed by the Nazis to a post overseeing the Russian emigre community in Berlin, and Nabokov fled to Paris with his half-Jewish wife and their two-year-old son. When his mother became fatally ill 1938, he was unable to afford the fare to see her. Two years later, as the Nazis overran France, Nabokov managed to obtain a berth to America for himself and his family on the last passenger liner to leave France. His brother Sergey, who had been out of Paris at the time and was left behind, would eventually die in a concentration camp. At the age of forty-one Nabokov arrived in America virtually penniless, an unknown writer with a family to support. Amongst his luggage was the manuscript of a failed novella called Volshebnik (The Enchanter), which featured a middle-aged man with a passion for a twelve-year-old girl who would eventually be given the name Lolita.
Excerpted from Nabokov IN 90 MINUTES by Paul Strathern Copyright © 2005 by Paul Strathern.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are saying about this
Meet the Author
Paul Strathern is author of the popular and critically acclaimed Philosophers in 90 Minutes series. Highlights from the series include Nietzsche in 90 Minutes, Aristotle in 90 Minutes, and Plato in 90 Minutes. Mr. Strathern has lectured in philosophy and mathematics and now lives and writes in London. A former Somerset Maugham prize winner, he is also the author of books on history and travel as well as five novels. His articles have appeared in a great many newspapers, including the Observer (London) and the Irish Times. His own degree in philosophy came from Trinity College, Dublin.
and post it to your social network
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
See all customer reviews >