For more than 10 years, from 1948 until 1959, renowned author Vladimir Nabokov taught at Cornell University. These were 10 of the most productive years of his life, during which he translated Eugene Onegin, finished his autobiography titledSpeak, Memory and wrote Lolita and Pnin.
Cornell will keep the Nabokov presence on its campus very much alive this fall by sponsoring a Nabokov Centenary Festival, Sept. 10 to 12, marking the 50th anniversary of Nabokov's arrival at Cornell (July 1, 1948) and the upcoming centenary of his birth (April 23, 1899).
The festival will draw participants from all over the world. Along with many American Nabokovians from coast to coast, there will be Nabokov scholars from the Sorbonne, the University of Zagreb, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the University of Auckland in New Zealand, among others.
In addition to a three-day scholarly conference, the festival will include a commemorative plaque dedication ceremony at the office Nabokov occupied during his Cornell tenure; an exhibit of Nabokov materials at Cornell's Kroch Library; and the performance of Dear Bunny/Dear Volodya, a dramatic dialogue based on the Nabokov-Edmund Wilson correspondence, adapted by Terry Quinn, featuring Nabokov's son, Dmitri Nabokov, in the role of his father, and William F. Buckley Jr. in the role of Wilson. There also will be a Nabokov-related concert of music, including a song recital by Dmitri Nabokov, who was formally trained as an opera singer.
"This is the place in America where Nabokov resided the longest," said festival director Gavriel Shapiro, chair of Cornell's Department of Russian Literature. "It's important to pay tribute to him. He has enriched our perception of the world and contributed enormously to bringing different cultures together.
"Nabokov attracts readers who have inquisitive minds," Shapiro said. "His readers attend 'Nabokov University,' since intelligent reading of his work requires a great deal of knowledge. At the same time, he teaches his readers how to read and perceive the world by paying attention to details and to the unique traits of every phenomenon."
"Vladimir Nabokov was one of the leading writers of the century," said Walter Cohen, festival participant and dean of Cornell's Graduate School. "His productive decade at Cornell included what is arguably his finest work, Lolita. He also had a significant impact on his students and colleagues here. The Nabokov Centenary Festival is a fitting reminder of the writer and of his important connection to the university."
"As a scholar," Shapiro added, "I'm fascinated by his fictional world, which is pervaded with cultural allusions, by the acuity of his vision and by the virtuosity of his style. Myself an emigre, I admire Nabokov's courage, perseverance and adaptability and for the way he always stayed true to himself. It's a great delight to watch a genius at work and play."
The Nabokov festival is free and open to the public and is sponsored by Cornell's Office of the President, Office of the Provost, College of Arts and Sciences, Society for the Humanities, Council for the Arts, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Library, the Center for Theatre Arts and the departments of music and Russian literature. Cornell also acknowledges alumni Jon A. Lindseth '56 and Joseph F. Martino Jr. '53 for their support of the festival.
For more information on the festival, contact Jenka Fyfe in the Cornell Department of Russian Literature at (607) 255-8350 or firstname.lastname@example.org.