The Real Life of Sebastian Knight

The Real Life of Sebastian Knight


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Nabokov's first novel in English, one of his greatest and most overlooked, with a new Introduction by Michael Dirda.The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Nabokov's first novel in English, was completed in Paris in 1938, first published by New Directions in 1941, reissued in 1959 to wide critical acclaim and now relaunched again, with an appreciative introduction by Pulitzer-Prize winning critic Michael Dirda.This, the narrator tells us, is the real life of famous author Sebastian Knight, the inside story. After Knight's death, his half-brother sets out to penetrate the mystery of the famous English novelist's life, but he is impeded by the false, the distorted, the irrelevant. Yet the search proves to be a story quite as intriguing as any of Sebastian Knight's own books, as baffling, and, in the end, as uniquely rewarding. On one level, this literary detective story has pungent points to make about the role of the artist in a society basically hostile to the creative spirit. On another, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight probes the essential problem of the ambiguity of human identity: Just who was Sebastian Knight?

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780811217507
Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 07/28/2008
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 766,203
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Vladimir Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Nabokovs were known for their high culture and commitment to public service, and the elder Nabokov was an outspoken opponent of anti-Semitism and one of the leaders of the opposition party, the Kadets. In 1919, following the Bolshevik Revolution, he took his family into exile. Four years later he was shot and killed at a political rally in Berlin while trying to shield the speaker from right-wing assassins.  The Nabokov household was trilingual, and as a child Nabokov was already reading Wells, Poe, Browning, Keats, Flaubert, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Tolstoy, and Chekhov alongside the popular entertainments of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne. As a young man, he studied Slavic and romance languages at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his honors degree in 1922. For the next 18 years he lived in Berlin and Paris, writing prolifically in Russian under the pseudonym "Sirin" and supporting himself through translations, lessons in English and tennis, and by composing the first crossword puzzles in Russian. In 1925, he married Vera Slonim, with whom he had one child, a son, Dmitri.  Having already fled Russia and Germany, Nabokov became a refugee once more in 1940, when he was forced to leave France for the United States. There he taught at Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell. He also gave up writing in Russian and began composing fiction in English. His most notable works include Bend Sinister (1947), Lolita (1955), Pnin (1957), and Pale Fire (1962), as well as the translation of his earlier Russian novels into English. He also undertook English translations of works by Lermontov and Pushkin and wrote several books of criticism. Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.

Date of Birth:

April 23, 1899

Date of Death:

July 2, 1977

Place of Birth:

St. Petersburg, Russia

Place of Death:

Montreux, Switzerland


Trinity College, Cambridge, 1922

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The Real Life of Sebastian Knight 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Clara53 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As Conrad Brenner wrote so aptly about the author in the Introduction to this novel - "He is NOT the author of only one book ("Lolita") and only one masterpiece. He is not a literary curiosity". True, Nabokov is mostly known for "Lolita" (which I am yet to read - having grown up in that part of the world where Nabokov's books were banned at the time), but I started with "The Real Life of Sebastian Knight" and found it very appealing, particularly because Nabokov's style (at least in this book) has so reminded me of one of my favorite authors - W.S.Maugham. Knowing only the basic facts of Nabokov's life, I nevertheless felt that this book was at least in some small part autobiographical. It greatly impressed me that in spite of the fact that this novel was Nabokov's first book written in English (and not a translation from Russian) - his mastery of the language and the richness of expression are incredibly high. A very worthy read.
Karlus on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of an elemental human desire, the Narrator's desire to learn more about the life of his brother, Sebastian, whom he has hardly known during his life, and after it is almost too late, after Sebastian has died. Not knowing how to begin, he finally speaks to people who have known Sebastian and gets to see the Sebastian who was visible through their eyes, meeting a knave or two along the way, including a publisher wouldn't you know! Finally, with the help of one of Nabokov's surely most comical minor characters, he is able to put together a very human side of his brother's life that very few knew about and, in the process, discovers depths of his own affection which he himself hardly knew about. And that, after all, is perhaps not such a strange story for any reader who has lived enough years to think about his own family relationships through the years.This is Vladimir Nabokov telling a story in his own beautifully clear and enigmatic way, challenging the reader to follow the twists and turns of its labyrinthine plot until it all finally becomes clear at the end. Or, perhaps, maybe only at the end of a second reading. It is a wonderfully human quest that you, the Reader, and the Narrator undertake.
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