Vladimir Nabokov

Writer / Lepidopterist

Born: April 1899
Died: 2 July 1977
Birthplace: St. Petersburg, Russia
Best known as: Author of the novel Lolita
Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita was so controversial that it went unpublished in America for three years after it was first presented in France in 1955. Nabokov left his native Russia after the 1917 revolution that overthrew Nicholas II, then lived in England and Germany before moving to the United States in the 1940s. A poet, translator, novelist and internationally recognized lepidopterist (butterfly expert), Nabokov taught at Cornell University from 1948 until 1959. Lolita created a firestorm of criticism due to its subject matter: "the affair between a middle-aged sexual pervert and a twelve-year-old girl" is how The Atlantic Monthly described it in a favorable 1958 review. The novel's obsessive protagonist, Humbert Humbert, and the manipulative nymph Lolita have become famous characters in 20th-century literature. The financial success of Lolita allowed Nabokov to devote his time to writing, and he settled in Switzerland, where he continued to write novels and study butterflies.
Extra credit: Lolita was first published in Paris by the obscure Olympia Press in 1955, then finally published in the U.S. by Putnam in 1958... Movie versions of Lolita were made in 1962 (with Sue Lyon as Lolita and James Mason as the aging Humbert Humbert) and in 1997 (with Dominique Swain as Lolita and Jeremy Irons as Humbert).

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