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Vladimir Nabokov : The American Years Paperback – January 11, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nabokov (1899-1977) fled France with his family in 1940, just before German tanks rolled into Paris. In the U.S. he settled into a peripatetic life of permanent impermanence, and much of the first half of this volume is crammed with minutiae on his teaching, writing and lecturing. But Boyd illuminates the contours of Nabokov's mind with sensuous precision, piercing the public persona of a very private man. The Russian emigre watched in bemusement as Lolita --which brought him fame, fortune and creative freedom--underwent a "process of vulgarization" in the public imagination. Boyd, senior lecturer at the University of Auckland, offers fresh readings of Pale Fire , Speak Memory , Pnin , Ada , Lolita and the rest of Nabokov's oeuvre. He conveys a keen sense of Nabokov as an artist who embraced life as an inexhaustible surprise and who suspected death to be a release from the self's prison. Ultimately a triumphant and definitive biography, this volume completes the story begun with The Russian Years. Photos. First serial to New York Times Book Review; author tour.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Boyd concludes his study of the master novelist begun in Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years ( LJ 10/1/90). After the turmoil of the Russian Revolution and the rise of fascism, the latter half of Nabokov's life passes almost uneventfully. The major excitement comes with the publication of Lolita ( LJ 8/38), which brings Nabokov not only fame but also fortune enough to abandon teaching. Eventually the man seems to vanish into his works, which plays to Boyd's considerable gifts as critic. Lolita and Pale Fire ( LJ 5/15/62) receive sharp, illuminating criticism, although Boyd's defense of the virtually impenetrable Ada ( LJ 6/1/69) is more elegant than persuasive. A stimulating work, highly recommended for collections of modern literature. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/91.
-Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Paperbacks
  • Paperback: 804 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press; Reprint edition (January 11, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691024715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691024714
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #439,326 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Brian Boyd, University Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, has published on American, Brazilian, English, Greek, Irish, New Zealand and Russian literature, from Homer to the present and from child to adult, and on biography, comics, drama, essays, fiction, film, literary theory, poetry, philosophy, science, and translation. His writing has appeared in eighteen languages and has won awards in four continents.

He has worked especially on Vladimir Nabokov, as annotator (see AdaOnline, http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/), archivist, bibliographer, biographer, consultant, critic, donor, editor, expert witness, historian, lecturer, lepidopterist, museum advisor, negotiator, reviewer, supervisor, teacher, translator. Most recent: Letters to Véra, co-edited and co-translated with Olga Voronina.

He also works on literature and evolution, including his recent Why Lyrics Last: Evolution, Cognition, and Shakespeare's Sonnets (Harvard University Press, 2012).

His other Shakespeare work includes Words That Count (University of Delaware Press, 2004).

He is currently researching and writing Karl Popper: A Life.

For key publications, see http://www.arts.auckland.ac.nz/staff/index.cfm?P=3566

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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Callahan on July 3, 2000
Format: Paperback
In my review of Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years, I say that "I am grateful to Boyd for his serious scholarship, his lively prose, and his close analysis of Nabokov's oeuvre." That comment applies wholeheartedly to this volume as well.
As a professor of literature at Cornell, Nabokov taught his students to focus on the details of literature. He taught them that the small details of a fictional world were far more important than broad generalizations about literary trends. One infamous midterm question asked the students to describe the wallpaper in a character's bedroom--a description that was only provided in a single line of the novel. Nabokov believed that good readers paid attention to details like this, and specific, startling detail was what made reality beautiful. I think Nabokov would have approved of Boyd's detailed, beautiful biography.
Boyd is a good Nabokovian. He sees the details of Nabokov's life and presents them to us vividly. He also analyzes the details of Nabokov's work, and provides us with lucid, and often surprising, readings and interpretations's of Nabokov's novels.
In The American Years Boyd reminds us why Nabokov was once hailed as perhaps the greatest writer of the latter half of the 20th Century. And after staying up all night to finish the enthralling story of Nabokov's life, I would have to say that Boyd is right.
Nabokov will certainly be remembered as one of the greats, and Boyd has given Nabokov the biography he deserves.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By JulieS on December 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
Brian Boyd's scope and research in this book are just outstanding. I'm not usually that interested in biographies of writers, often the biographer does not relate their life to their literature in a way that interests me, but Nabokov is one of my favorite writers, so I thought I'd give this book a try. First you should note that it is a huge book that spans a large time frame, but you shouldn't be put off by the size, because Boyd's prose is very succinct and the chapters are manageable. It's clear to me that he appreciates Nabokov's works, as the best chapters are the ones detailing the periods of time when Nabokov is writing his works. There is so much great background information to be found here, that Nabokov wrote on index cards, the road trips that influenced Lolita, and Nabokov's relationship with his wife, Vera. This is what literary biographies should be like. I highly recommend this to any fans of Nabokov who want to learn more about his life and his writing.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By greenhornet on March 13, 2011
Format: Paperback
Personally I feel that Nabokov was not only one of the three greatest writers of the 20th century, he was also by far the most fascinating. Who has lived such an incredible life? From Czarist Russia to England to Berlin to Paris to the U.S.; butterfly hunter, chess fiend, and writer of some of the wittiest and funniest books ever written. He and the equally fascinating Vera! Boyd has written one of the best biographies I've ever had the joy to read, with wonderful photos as well. And it's satisfying to see Nabokov, past 70, looking like a young man atop a mountain on a beautiful eternal sunny day and know that all those bloated frauds of pseudo -literature, all those fun fellows who defended Stalin and co. to well past the bitter end, are alcoholic messes sitting around somewhere in diapers, or helping the grass grow.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Outstanding piece of scholarship!
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ludmila Hagans on October 7, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I love Nabokov and was glad to have found this book.Unfortunately the copy was damaged by water and smelled moldy.Otherwise a great biography of one of my favorite writer.
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