DISCUSSION: VLADIMIR NABOKOV'S ENGLAND: IMAGINED AND REAL

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In the popular imagination Vladimir Nabokov is associated more with Coca-Cola, nymphettes and the freshly garish American Dream than he is with the ancient halls of Cambridge University. But England, both as a concept and as a place, is where the writer spent his formative years.

With his typically highly-charged, witty style, Nabokov described his childhood as “A bewildering sequence of English nurses and governesses”.

In 1919 the Nabokov family moved to London, joining Vladimir’s uncle who served as the Russian Ambassador.  Nabokov started at Cambridge that same year. What did Nabokov make of the place? His memories of that time are hard-hitting: "Repetitive pictures of grey pears on the grimy walls of Victoria Station advertised the bath soap the English governesses had used upon me in my childhood", illustrative of the difference between imagined and tangible reality, a refreshingly Russian view of Britain, as well as the writer's extraordinary, almost surreal level of perception.

The discussion will focus on how Nabokov's involvement with English culture shaped his work, drawing on the expertise of several scholars and professors from different universities across the UK.

Tatiana Ponomareva is one of the best-known Nabokov scholars, having been director of the Vladimir Nabokov Museum since 2002. She has organised and participated in numerous international conferences and edited a number of academic publications on Nabokov. She is  a senior lecturer at the Faculty of Philology of the St.Petersburg State University.

Tatiana Ponomareva, Director of the Nabokov House Museum, St Petersburg

Tatiana Ponomareva, Director of the Nabokov House Museum, St Petersburg

Liza Mrosovsky-Shaw is the daughter of Nabokov’s friend Peter Mrosovsky who introduced Nabokov into the traditions of English university life and later emerged in Nabokov’s novel “Glory”. Liza will tell the story of Nabokov’s Cambridge years and her father's friendship with the writer, and introduce first-hand biographical details around which the discussion will be built.

Nabokov in Cambridge (2nd from left), with his friend Mrosovsky (1st from right).

Nabokov in Cambridge (2nd from left), with his friend Mrosovsky (1st from right).

Entry is free, but booking is essential. Please email office@pushkinhouse.org.uk to reserve your place.