overlook illustrated lives: vladimir nabokov
It’s amazing what one can find online for next to nothing. Today I received in the mail a charming little book on Nabokov that I purchased used through Amazon for one cent (!) plus $3.99 shipping. Published by The Overlook Press, and part of a series called Overlook Illustrated Lives that includes titles on Beckett, Proust, Kafka, among others, this volume was written by Jane Grayson, Lecturer in Russian at University College London. Inside are a ten dozen photos and illustrations in addition to what appears to be a tidy biographical overview that includes a chronology and bibliography, all in 150 pages. Best of all are many photos I’ve never seen before, and three I find especially interesting. One is of Nabokov reclining under a tree one sunny day in 1944 with two female students from his Russian language class at Wellesley. Another shows Vladimir and Vera with Dorothy Leuthold, one of Nabokov’s future pupils at Stanford who drove them from New York to California, posed against some drab pre-war sedan. Nabokov appears bizarrely Tom Joad-like, tall and lanky, with a floppy straw hat and swimming in baggy trousers and ill fitting shirt. He holds in the crook of his right arm a butterfly net. The last image is of Nabokov’s grave outside Montreux, a horizontal headstone of black granite floating above a low granite plinth. It’s quite lovely.