December 2nd, 2009 / 8:13 pm
On the last morning of my summer stay in St. Petersburg, I briefly left my wife and her family to walk to 47 Bol’shaya Morskaya, the childhood home of Vladimir Nabokov. The building, originally the mansion of the Nabokov family, houses on its first floor a museum, which I entered and was allowed to tour on my own for 100 roubles
To celebrate the publication of The Original of Laura, I’d like to post an illustrated account of my visit to the Nabokov Museum. I stupidly did not pay the extra 100 roubles to take photographs, so what follows are pictures I have lifted from around the web, sorry. I’ve also tried to explain, as best I can, what I learned of Nabokov’s life in this house – I consulted the museum website and Wikipedia when my memory failed me. I hope you enjoy, and please, if you have corrections/additions/Nabokov stories, share in the comments.
Knopf is publishing the book in an intriguing form: Nabokov’s handwritten index cards are reproduced with a transcription below of each card’s contents, generally less than a paragraph. The scanned index cards (perforated so they can be removed from the book) are what make this book an amazing document; they reveal Nabokov’s neat handwriting (a mix of cursive and print) and his own edits to the text: some lines are blacked out with scribbles, others simply crossed out. Words are inserted, typesetting notes (“no quotes”) and copyedit symbols pepper the writing, and the reverse of many cards bears a wobbly X. Depending on the reader’s eye, the final card in the book is either haunting or the great writer’s final sly wink: it’s a list of synonyms for “efface”—expunge, erase, delete, rub out, wipe out and, finally, obliterate. (Nov.)