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200 × 130 × 15 mm
224 pages
48 illustrations
01 Feb 2010
Critical Lives
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Vladimir Nabokov Barbara Wyllie, Barbara Wyllie

‘I am almost exclusively a writer, and my style is all I have’, wrote Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977). Best known for his deeply controversial 1955 novel Lolita, Nabokov is celebrated as a prolific author and poet in both Russian and English. In Vladimir Nabokov, Barbara Wyllie presents an insightful account of the life and works of the writer, from his childhood and earliest poems, written in pre-Revolutionary Russia, to The Original of Laura - an unfinished novel first published posthumously in 2009.

This book 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 across the span of his works. His expertise as a specialist in butterflies complemented his wide knowledge of Russian and European culture, philosophy and history, and informed the themes of transformation and transcendence that dominate his work. Lifelong preoccupations with time, memory and mortality, as well as creativity and identity, are traced across Nabokov's poetry and prose while his distinctive style is illuminated through detailed analysis of the major texts. Wyllie assesses the work alongside the author’s own autobiography, letters and critical writings - as well as the recently released 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. An essential read for anyone studying Nabokov, it will also appeal to readers interested in twentieth-century English and Russian literature.

‘Barbara Wyllie does not claim to offer us a new or real Nabokov in her eloquent biography of the writer. Instead she revisits the art and life of Nabokov, detecting threads and patterns which link seemingly disparate works and real-life episodes. In lucid prose Wyllie presents an accurate, informative account of Nabokov life . . . This is an insightful, accessible, and well-written biography, which does justice to the overall themes of Nabokov's writing without losing sight of the all-important details in his work and life.’ — Modern Language Review

‘a vividly written introduction into Nabokovs life and work, both handy and comprehensive - an excellent basis for beginning scholars as well as a useful aid for prodigal Nabokovians who wish to return to the lessons of the master. The materials are organized into a consistent narrative that traces the development of Nabokov's experience and themes as well as the continuity of his character and world-view. The conciseness of the volume eases the reader's understanding of the distinct periods in Nabokov's writing,but no artificially water-tight boundaries are drawn between them.'’ — The Slavonic and East European Review

‘As an introduction to Nabokov and his writing, this text is very useful. His books are given more or less equal discussion space, and the textual analysis of each piece provides a launching pad for more extensive exploration. The book itself is highly enjoyable to read the layout and format are clear and neat, and Wyllies style is direct and engaging.’ — The Nabokov Online Journal

‘I found Barbara Wyllies Vladimir Nabokov, at this stage in the development of his posthumous reputation, exactly the way to go . . . The included photographs are well chosen and well placed in the text and add to Wyllies account appreciably at this stage in Nabokovs posthumous career, it strikes me as near perfect.’ — Slavonica

‘considers Nabokov's poetry and prose in both Russian and English . . . [Wyllie] draws out the themes that recur in his work: notably time, memory and mortality as well as reflecting on Navokovs extraordinary breadth of erudition, his mastery of languages, and his special fascination with butterflies . . . illustrated with many interesting photographs.’ — The Good Book Guide

‘Barbara Wyllie has written a lively and informative introduction into the life and literary career of one of the twentieth centuryıs most important writers. This concise yet comprehensive volume covers the essential details of Nabokov's biography as well as a wide range of works, from his early poetry and dramas to his mature short stories and novels. Well-researched and insightful, this book illuminates the central themes and underlying world-view of a complex and compelling author.’ — Julian W. Connolly, Professor and Chair in the Dept of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Virginia and editor of the The Cambridge Companion to Nabokov

‘Barbara Wyllie deploys an enviable knowledge of Vladimir Nabokov's works and life in her brief Critical Lives volume on the great writer. I've been reading Nabokov with great intensity but not much organization for almost 20 years now, and there is a great deal I still don't know but after reading Vladimir Nabokov I at least have a road map to help orient my next flurry of travel.’ — Timothy Morris, professor of English at the University of Texas at Arlington

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Barbara Wyllie is Deputy Editor of The Slavonic and East European Review. She is the author of Nabokov at the Movies: Film Perspectives in Fiction, and has contributed to many works, including the Reference Guide to Russian Literature.

Barbara Wyllie is Deputy Editor of The Slavonic and East European Review. She is the author of Nabokov at the Movies: Film Perspectives in Fiction, and has contributed to many works, including the Reference Guide to Russian Literature.

1        ‘Nothing will ever change, nobody will ever die’
2        Sirin, Part One: ‘Terror’ to The Eye
3        Sirin, Part Two: Glory to The Gift
4        Looking to Other Shores, 1938-40
5        Becoming Vladimir Nabokov: Bend Sinister to Lolita
6        World Fame: Hollywood and Switzerland, 1958-68           
7        The Final Arc, 1969-77
Selected Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements