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Vladimir Nabokov cultivated his public image as a witty cosmopolitan equally capable of skewering fellow writers and turning out some of the era’s most celebrated and notorious fiction such as Lolita and Pale Fire. But he had also witnessed the horrors of his century, escaping Revolutionary Russia then Germany under Hitler, and fleeing France with his Jewish wife and son just weeks before Paris fell to the Nazis.
Nabokov faced repeated accusations of turning a blind eye to human suffering to write artful tales of depravity. But what if Nabokov was up to far more than readers ever imagined? In her new book The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov (Pegasus), Andrea Pitzer draws from newly declassified intelligence files and recovered military history to suggest that Vladimir Nabokov managed to hide disturbing history in his novels.
From Tsarist courts to Nazi film sets, CIA front organizations to wartime Casablanca, the story of Nabokov’s family is the story of his century—and both, says Pitzer, are woven inextricably into his fiction. Her presentation will unravel those surprising connections.
Watch Vladimir Nabokov discuss (and defend) Lolita as he talks to host John Daly and critic and author Lionel Trilling on CBS’s Close Up in November 1958.
To learn more about Russia, listen to clips from Smithsonian Folkways>>
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