One hundred years ago today, on his twentieth birthday, Vladimir Nabokov arrived in Athens after he and his family had escaped from revolutionary Russia. He would never see his homeland again. Over the next 20 years, he and his family moved restlessly from Greece to England to Berlin, and finally to America, barely escaping the Nazis.
Nabokov’s amazing story is brilliantly told in the long read: “Vladimir Nabokov, Literary Refugee” by Stay Schiff. I will not reduce that article’s many charms by attempting a precis: It is well worth the reading.
But this is a fine time and place to note that Vladimir Nabokov is one of the five authors I could not do without. As with each of the others — James Joyce, Dylan Thomas, John Dos Passos, and Joseph Conrad — I have read and reread all of his works in English, without tiring of them. There are times when other authors are my favourite of the day (Irving, usually, or Brautigan), but I always return to the Big Five.
It must be time again for Pale Fire or Ada, and then perhaps the USA trilogy. That would make for a fine summer.
The waitress at the county’s
favourite luncheonette counter
swings and sings
the songs of the sixties
“She walks like an angel,
talks like an angel”
jiving and gesturing with the farmers
and truckers and travelers
flashing her eyes
delivering pies a la mode
“In Dreams, you’re mine,
All of the time”
dancing and prancing to mothers
and all kinds of others
soothing and smoothing
and smooching and cooing
“Mashed potato, yeah, yeah, yeah
The mashed potato, yeah, yeah, yeah”
passing the work day with nary a cloud
of concern no matter the crowd
that packs in the cafe