Vladimir Nabokov, the writer best known for the controversial novel Lolita, was born in a wealthy family in St Petersburg on 22 April 1899. He lived at 47 Bolshaya Morskaya Street until he was 18 when he and his family fled after the Communist Revolution.
He considered it his only home and never bought another, preferring to live in rented accommodation or in hotel rooms. Today, the first floor houses the Nabokov museum, while the rest are the offices of the Nevskoe Vremya newspaper.
Only the library room has fully retained its wonderful wooden decoration.
One of the most interesting aspects of the museum is its selection of rare photos.
Nabokov described himself as “a perfectly normal trilingual child in a family with a large library” and he spoke Russian, French and English fluently. The Headless Horseman was a very popular book for Russian pre-teens, but as he says “knowing English I could savour the book in its unabridged original.”
Nabokov loved chess and published many chess problems in the émigré publication Poslednie Novosti, in Paris under the pen name of Vladimir Sirin. One of them, published pn Nov 17 1932, is shown below. It is dedicated to the Russian grandmaster Evgenyi Znosko-Borosti.
Outside literature, Nabokov was a passionate entomologist and was a volunteer at the American Museum of Natural History. He said in his memoirs that looking down the microscope was maybe inspired by the time he spent watching magic lantern tutorials. “Lenski (his teacher Philip Zelenski) conceived the awful idea of showing, on alternate Sundays, educational Magic Lantern projections at our Petersburg home.”
And finally, the personal items add a human touch to this excellent, free museum.