N is for Nabokov


Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born in 1899 in St Pertersburg Russia to a prominent wealthy family, his father being a lawyer, statesman and journalist.

As a child he was taught Russian, English and French and could read and write in English before he could in Russian. After the Bolshevik Revolution the family fled to Europe and after a brief stay in England, settled in Berlin.

He published 9 novels in Russian between 1926 and 1938 but it wasn’t until he arrived in America (fleeing the Germany army in 1941) and became a Lecturer that he was able to fund his writing career. The huge financial success of Lolita in 1955 (that has now sold over 50 million copies world wide) meant he was then able to devote his time to writing on a permanent basis.

Noted for his clever use of words and complex plots, he enjoyed using “Alliteration” in his work and suffered from synesthesia. He died in 1977 in Switzerland after suffering from severe bronchial congestion. At the time of his death he was working on a novel, which he requested to be burnt on his death. His son went against his father wishes and published it.

My favourite Nobokov quotes:

“I think like a genius, I write like a distinguished author, and I speak like a child.”

“Caress the detail, the divine detail.”

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”

“Style and structure are the essence of a book; great ideas are hogwash.”

“Some people, and I am one of them, hate happy ends, we feel cheated.”

This is a really interesting documentary about Nabokov….it’s an hour long, but includes interviews with him….worth a watch 🙂

I don’t think I’ve ever used Alliteration in my writing, but it’s an interesting concept that I might explore one day. How about you? Do you use Alliteration?

38 thoughts on “N is for Nabokov

  1. I know I saw the film. I can still see James Mason in the role. I’m pretty sure I read the book too but of course don’t remember it. I have an awful memory


  2. Great post! I like a bit of alliteration here or there although I’m sure I read somewhere it’s a modern no-no. I had a fab one in my current WIP but I struggle to remember now where it was… I’ll pop back if it comes back to me! X


  3. Found it! “Perilous phonetic promixity” ~ we’ll see if this survives the editing process! Now then ~ is this a double or triple alliteration? Do we go by sound alone or spelling? #questionsquestions! X


  4. Lolita is a simply astonishing book. I read it many years ago, during a rare British summer (when they still existed). I’d recommend any writer to read it if only to learn about the craft of writing from a master practitioner.


    • Oh wow Jane, I did the same! Although I read in in Menorca, over a 2 week holiday. Not exactly a beach read, but it definitely had an impact on me as I can remember exactly where I was lol

      I TOTALLY agree 🙂



  5. Ah, Lolita. That’s on my list of books I need to re-read! So many books, so little time! Another interesting blogpost, thanks Vikki! I don’t knowingly use alliteration but sometimes it may just happen. It’s very big in Level 5 writing at Primary schools though, you know!


    • ou have a re-read list Bel…wow….if i had one i don’t think id ever get to it lol 😉

      Really? Wow, thats great that they’re teaching stuff like that to kids in school. I never got taught stuff like that 😦



  6. “The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.”

    I really like this quote.


  7. I enjoyed reading your blog post. I even did some research on Nabokov and his other writings as a result. For some reason reading about Nabokov made me think of another writer, a playwright of the Theater of the Absurd, Eugene Ionesco. I think what sparked my memory was your mention of Nabokov fleeing Germany in 1941. Ionesco, was Romanian by birth, had moved to France but left to go back to Romania in 1939 because of the outbreak of WW II, but changed his mind and obtained documents to return to France in 1942 where he stayed for the remainder of the war.
    In researching Nabokov’s books, I again thought of Ionesco, as they both cause you to ponder. Are you familiar with the play, Rhinoceros? It is one of my favorites but it pays to do the research behind the play and perhaps what life events prompted Ionesco to write it which had to do with the war and the change he saw in those around him. Rhinoceros will always be relevant as long as individuals are free to choose. I for one will never be a rhinoceros…or would I?
    Excellent article and I thank you for sharing Nabokov and his works with us.
    In honor of his love for alliteration perhaps your blog title could have been, Nabokov, Not a Normal Novelist.


  8. Wow, I think if I were him, and I’d asked for the piece to be burned after my death, and my kiddo published it, I’d haunt him. Kinda disrespectful, no? Maybe it was something brilliant? (I’d like to know the son’s rationality….)


  9. Awesome post! I love to write with alliteration. Check out my “F is for” post. I used a lot of alliteration in that fun post. Nabakov was a great author. Thanks for the information.


  10. I’ll have to bookmark the documentary to watch later! I especially love his quote about happy endings. I totally agree, but I wonder why we end up feeling cheated? Maybe because things don’t always work like that in real life. If only they did. 😉


    • It’s very interesting Madeline, but yes, quite long.

      I think you’re right about that, but then, I do know people who INSIST on having a happy ending. Personally, I like an ending that leaves me thinking 🙂

      Thanks honey xx


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