St. Petersburg is very conscious of the great writers who lived here. Whether or not they were persecuted, exiled, died (and mostly lived) in the most abject poverty, once their reputation is established and a few decades have past, they do their best to show them off.
Nabokov had a most bourgeois childhood, growing up in a large apartment in the center of town. He was trilingual (speaking Russian, English and French fluently), in an atmosphere he describes in his memoir, Speak Memory, as “perfect.” But of course, then came the revolution, and his father took a role in what became the provisional government before the Bolsheviks took over. For Nabokov and his family, this meant exile. We had the great good luck to wander in to the Nabokov Museum–reconstructed in the apartment he lived in for the first 18 years of his life–when it was virtually empty and got to wander the suite of rooms, peruse his butterfly collection in its boxes, look at his butterfly net and the pictures of his family. He dedicated many of his first editions to Vera, his wife, drawing butterflies and making up genus and species names. Here’s a glimpse of it all:
The entry room with the molded wood ceiling Continue reading “Literary St. Petersburg”