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  People > V.Nabokov
Lankomumo reitingas Print version Print version

Shortly after his marriage to Véra, Nabokov began Mashen'ka [Mary], derived from an earlier, abandoned novel entitled "Happiness" - a title he retained almost until publication. On February 15, 1926, he signed a contract with Slovo for the book's publication, and excerpts appeared in March in two of the émigré periodicals that were proliferating in the centers of the emigration: Vozrozhdenie in Paris and Slovo in Riga, Latvia. By the time Mashen'ka reached the bookstalls, the influential critic Yuli Aykhenvald had already proclaimed Nabokov "a new Turgenev."

The publishers promoted Mashen'ka as "a novel of émigré life," and in fact its action takes place during the 1924 peak of the émigré exodus from Berlin to Paris, in a pension not unlike Nabokov's mother's quarters in Prague. The novel was lauded for its innovative structure and vibrant, if occasionally unpalatable, detail. It tells the story of the Russian émigré Ganin, who discovers that the lover he left behind in Russia has married his fellow boarder in Berlin. Mashen'ka never appears in the novel, but is conjured by Ganin's reminiscences. Mashen'ka incorporates a wealth of autobiographical material, from Ganin's general nostalgia for his homeland to the very specific and realistic descriptions of Vyra, Nabokov's summer home. In the midst of composition in October 1925, he wrote to his mother that "it already begins to seem that my [characters] are real people, and not my inventions." Mashen'ka herself is based on Nabokov's old flame Lyussa - whom he would name "Tamara" in Speak, Memory. "The girl really existed," he wrote to Edmund Wilson twenty years later; five of her love letters to Nabokov are quoted in the novel.

The translation of his Russian novels into English had been an early goal of Nabokov's, even before his 1940 emigration to the United States. "None of my American friends have read my Russian books and thus every appraisal on the strength of my English ones is bound to be out of focus," he wrote in 1959. Both Kamera obskura [Laughter in the Dark] and Otchaianie [Despair] had been badly translated in the late 1930s, but after his move to America he could not interest publishers in commissioning English versions of his other novels until the recognition he received for Lolita in the late 1950s prompted a string of offers. The English translations that followed were Invitation to a Beheading (1959), The Gift (1963), The Defense (1964), The Eye (1965), Despair (new translation, 1966), King, Queen, Knave (1968), Mary (1970), and Glory (1971).

Through the process of preparing these translations for the American market, he developed the habit of prefacing each work with an explanatory foreword. In the foreword to Mary he wrote that the translation was "as faithful to the text as I would have insisted on its being had that text not been mine. . . . The only adjustments I deemed necessary are limited to brief utilitarian phrases in three or four passages alluding to routine Russian matters (obvious to fellow-émigrés but incomprehensible to foreign readers) and to the switch of seasonal dates in Ganin's Julian Calendar to those of the Gregorian style in general use . . . etc."

The items listed below pertain to Nabokov's life and career and are the contents of the exhibition at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library, on view from April 23 through August 21, 1999. This checklist, primarily of items from the Library's Nabokov Archive, is included here to provide a sense of the rich holdings in this special collection.

Vladimir Nabokov, Berlin, 1925
Photographer unknown
Berg Collection

V. Sirin [Vladimir Nabokov]
Berlin: Slovo, 1926
Inscribed by Nabokov in Russian to Anna Feigin: "your labours, dear Anyuta, were not in vain. Here is the fruit of them - a hundred fold. The Loving Author, 19-III-26. Berlin"
Berg Collection

Vladimir Nabokov
Introduction to Mary
Holograph manuscript, signed and dated January 9, 1970
Berg Collection

Michael Glenny
Typed letter signed to Véra Nabokov
Headington, Oxford, January 17, 1970
Berg Collection

Vladimir Nabokov
Typescript (photocopy) of chapter one, translated by Michael Glenny, with Nabokov's holograph changes, additions, and deletions, ca. early 1970
Berg Collection

Vladimir Nabokov
Typescript of translation by Michael Glenny, with Nabokov's holograph corrections, additions, and deletions, ca. early 1970
Berg Collection

Vladimir Nabokov
New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970
Berg Collection

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1. Nabokov by Peter Shaw
2. Berlin and Early Translations
3. Lolita. Paris, 1955
4. Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)
5. Vladimir Nabokov by Wilma Slaight
6. Crimea and Cambridge
7. A masterpiece of subtle literary meaning
8. Early Life and Poems
9. Reading Nabokov, James, Austen, Fitzgerald
10. Annotated version helps a lot
1. Early Life and Poems
2. Nabokov by Peter Shaw
3. Lectures on Literature
4. Lolita. Paris, 1955
5. Lectures on Russian Literature
6. Lolita and Mr. Girodias by Vladimir Nabokov 2
7. Crimea and Cambridge
8. The Second Time Through
9. A masterpiece of subtle literary meaning
10. Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) - pen name Vladimir Sirin