Nabokov at Cornell

Vladimir Nabokov, his wife Véra, and son Dmitri arrived in Ithaca on July 1, 1948. Nabokov began his duties as Professor of Russian Literature in the fall, teaching three courses on the subject, one in translation and two in Russian. By the end of his more than ten years at Cornell, he would become famous as the author of Lolita and Pnin and known on campus as a lecturer not to be missed.

While at Cornell, Nabokov wrote some of the richest and most enduring works of his career. In 1953 alone he had five writing projects in process. He was well into a translation of The Song of Igor's Campaign, a monumental translation of Eugene Onegin, and a translation of his Conclusive Evidence into Russian. At the same time, the outline for Pnin was taking shape, and Lolita was an all but completed typescript.

When Nabokov left Ithaca in February of 1959, he planned to return to his teaching position at Cornell after a year long sabbatical. But as profits from Lolita continued to multiply, he realized the full scope of the financial freedom won by his new success. For the first time in his life, at age sixty, Nabokov could afford to devote himself wholly to his art. In September of 1959 he wrote to Cornell University president Deane Malott to formally tender his resignation.

The Nabokovs returned to Europe and established residence in Montreux, Switzerland. Although they thought of visiting Ithaca more than once over the following decade, they would never see Cornell again.

Vladimir and Véra Nabokov outside 802 East Seneca Street, Ithaca, where much of Lolita was written. [view]

View a photo of the exhibition cases

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