Sunday, February 26, 2012

Deceased--Dmitri Nabokov

Dmitri Nabokov
May 10th, 1934 to February 22nd, 2012

"Dmitri Nabokov dies at 77; only child of acclaimed novelist Vladimir Nabokov"

The younger Nabokov spent much of his life trying to carve a life away from the shadow of his father. But he always returned to protecting his legacy, translating and editing his work while pursuing careers as an opera singer and race car driver.

February 26th, 2012

Dmitri Nabokov, the only child of acclaimed novelist Vladimir Nabokov who helped protect and translate his father's work while pursuing careers as an opera singer and race car driver, has died. He was 77.

The younger Nabokov died Wednesday at a hospital in Vevey, Switzerland, after a long illness, said literary agent Andrew Wylie.

Dmitri spent much of his life trying to carve a life away from the shadow of his father, considered one of the premier writers of the 20th century for such books as "Lolita" and "Pale Fire."

The tall, broad-shouldered son bore a striking resemblance to his father. Harvard-educated Dmitri was a playboy who began to race cars competitively in 1962 and maintained an active professional operatic career as a basso profundo until 1982.

But Dmitri always returned to protecting his father's literary legacy, translating and editing his father's plays, poems, stories, the novella "The Enchanter" and "Selected Letters."

"My father is gradually marching — with his two favorite writers, Pushkin and Joyce — arm in arm into the pantheon to join the greatest of all, Shakespeare, who is waiting for them," Dmitri told the Associated Press in 2009. "I like to think that I did my bit to keep things on track."

After the success of "Lolita," he translated his father's "Invitation to a Beheading" from Russian and wrote the memoir "On Revisiting Father's Room" after his father died in 1977. After his mother died in 1991, he sold the remainder of his father's archive to the New York Public Library and attended conferences dedicated to him.

In 2009, Dmitri decided to publish his father's final, fragmentary novel, "The Origin of Laura," written on index cards during the last years of Vladimir's life. It was a controversial act that his son said went against the wishes of his father, who had asked that "Laura" be burned.

Dmitri Nabokov was born in 1934 in Berlin and as a child lived "a real drifter's life," he later said. He was living in Paris with his father and Jewish mother, Vera, when the family fled the Nazis in 1940 and came to the U.S.

Vladimir borrowed money to send his son to Harvard in 1951. He reported that Dmitri's interests there were "mountaineering, girls, music, track, tennis and his studies, in that order."

After graduating from college, Dmitri served in theU.S. Army, resuming his voice studies after his discharge in 1957.

The elder Nabokov became an American citizen in 1945 but returned to Europe in 1961, settling in Switzerland to be near his son, who was living in Italy.

Dmitri never married but believed he would have made a great father, much like his own was, he told The Times in 1989: "It was a very rich relationship. We were very good friends.... He made my life infinitely richer, more entertaining and equipped me for creative endeavors of my own."

"Dmitri Nabokov, Steward of Father’s Literary Legacy, Dies at 77"


Daniel E. Slotnik

February 25th, 2012

The New York Times

Dmitri Nabokov, the son of Vladimir Nabokov, who tended to the legacy of his father with the posthumous publication of a volume of personal letters, an unpublished novella and an unfinished novel that his father had demanded be burned, died on Wednesday in Vevey, Switzerland. He was 77.

Mr. Nabokov was hospitalized for a lung infection in January and never recovered, Andrew Wylie, the agent for the Nabokov estate, said.

In contrast with his father, who was said to focus on literature and lepidoptery to the exclusion of all else, Dmitri Nabokov was a bon vivant, a professional opera singer, a race car driver and a mountain climber.

He was also devoted to the full range of his father’s work, including the early Russian writings like “King, Queen, Knave,” the English-language masterpiece “Lolita” and the unfinished novel “The Original of Laura.” He translated his father’s early Russian works, including the novel “The Gift” and the short story collection “Tyrants Destroyed.”

He also wrote a memoir, “On Revisiting Father’s Room,” which explored their relationship as well as his father’s life and work. Mr. Nabokov also countered the widely held perception of his father as cool and distant, describing a “trusting, gentle nature.”

“If there is a quality overlooked in his writing by some of the more obtuse commentators,” he wrote, “it is that gentleness, coupled with a total honesty on every plane and an utter freedom from anything cruel, cheap or mean.”

In his book, Mr. Nabokov described an unpublished manuscript that he said “would have been Father’s most brilliant novel, the most concentrated distillation of his creativity, but whose release in incomplete form he expressly forbade.” Vladimir Nabokov’s widow and Dmitri’s mother, Véra, never burned the handwritten notecards that made up the novel, and in 2009 the younger Mr. Nabokov published it. The volume included a text of the book, in the order that the younger Mr. Nabokov believed his father had intended, but also facsimiles of the notecards, which could be detached and arranged in whatever order the reader preferred.

In an introduction, he wrote that his “father’s shade” would not “have opposed the release of ‘Laura’ once ‘Laura’ had survived the hum of time this long.”

In “Laura,” Mr. Nabokov “imagines the death of his protagonist, a writer and neurologist named Philip, as a sort of Nietzschean act of will, as an exercise in self-erasure conducted body part by body part, beginning with his toes,” Michiko Kakutani wrote in a review for The New York Times. “It is the ultimate fantasy of a writer who wants to exert complete control over the narrative of his own life.”

Ms. Kakutani said the book did “a disservice to a writer who deeply cherished precision and was practiced in the art of revision,” but she said it would “beckon and beguile Nabokov fans.”

Dmitri Vladimirovich Nabokov, an only child, was born May 10, 1934, in Berlin. In 1937, the family fled Germany for France and by 1940 had made its way to New York.

Mr. Nabokov concentrated on history and literature at Harvard and graduated in 1955. He also began training for the opera at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass.

In the late 1950s, Mr. Nabokov helped his father translate his novel “Invitation to a Beheading.” In 1959 he traveled to Italy and began training with a singing coach at La Scala in Milan. He later made his operatic debut in “La Bohème” alongside Luciano Pavarotti, then a novice tenor. An imposing presence onstage at well over six feet tall, he continued to sing professionally until 1982.

He also raced cars competitively until 1965.

In 1986, he published his translation of “The Enchanter,” a never-published 1939 novella by his father widely considered a forerunner of “Lolita.”

After his mother died in 1991, Mr. Nabokov moved into her apartment in Montreux, where he oversaw the Nabokov estate and where he lived at his death. He never married and has no immediate survivors.

In his memoir, Mr. Nabokov recalled one of his last exchanges with his father, who died in 1977. They spoke of butterflies, and of a bucolic valley near their home in Switzerland that they had always meant to explore.

“Tears suddenly welled in Father’s eyes,” Mr. Nabokov wrote. “I asked him why. He replied that a certain butterfly was already on the wing; and his eyes told me he no longer hoped that he would live to pursue it again. Nor would he ever visit that enchanted mountain valley on the far side of the lake. But perhaps, in Father’s memory, I shall.”

Dmitri Nabokov [Wikipedia]

Vladimir Nabokov...the lepidopterist

Nabokov's "Pale Fire"

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