Nabokov as a refugee.

April 4, 2019

Interesting article from the NYT about Nabokov. Not knowing much about his life other than he was Russian and lived in the US later in life, I was surprised by some of the information here; for example, after leaving Russia, he traveled with a Nansen passport (issued to stateless persons), he and his wife having been stripped of Russian citizenship. The article actually shows a US immigrant identification card with his nationality stated as without. And then this:

And then there was “Dr. Zhivago.” Published four weeks after “Lolita,” it joined Nabokov’s masterpiece at the top of the 1958 best-seller list. Nabokov wrote off Boris Pasternak’s novel as “wretched and mediocre,” or, on a better day, as “a sorry thing, clumsy, trivial, and melodramatic.” He might shrug off his losses, but 1919 still burned bright: He could not forgive Pasternak for having raced past the liberal revolution on his way to writing about the Bolshevik coup. The Nabokovs knew a Soviet plot when they saw one: They were convinced the Communists had pretended to smuggle Pasternak’s novel out of the Soviet Union. Its American publication amounted to a cunning act of currency conversion. Nabokov forbade his publisher from mentioning him and Pasternak in the same breath. It was as if the Cold War played out weekly in America’s bookstores.

I knew he had strong opinions about other writers, but this degree of paranoia makes him sound a bit like some of his characters.