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.