The breaking of the wave cannot explain the whole sea": First Edition of Vladimir Nabokov's The Real Life of Sebastian Knight; Signed and Dated by Him

  • The Real Life of Sebastian Knight.

The Real Life of Sebastian Knight.

$4,500.00

Item Number: 75040

Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1941.

First edition of Nabokov’s first novel published in English, one of only 1,500 copies printed. Octavo, original burlap weave. Signed by the author on the half-title page, “Vladimir Nabokov Wellesley Jan. 1942.” Nabokov joined the staff of Wellesley College in 1941 as resident lecturer in comparative literature. The position, created specifically for him, provided an income and free time to write creatively and pursue his lepidoptery. Nabokov is remembered as the founder of Wellesley’s Russian Department. The Nabokovs resided in Wellesley, Massachusetts, during the 1941–42 academic year. In September 1942 they moved to Cambridge where they lived until June 1948. Following a lecture tour through the United States, Nabokov returned to Wellesley for the 1944–45 academic year as a lecturer in Russian. In 1945, he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. He served through the 1947–48 term as Wellesley’s one-man Russian Department, offering courses in Russian language and literature. His classes were popular, due as much to his unique teaching style as to the wartime interest in all things Russian. At the same time he was the de facto curator of lepidoptery at Harvard University’s Museum of Comparative Zoology. In near fine condition, with the signature of Georgia Robison Beale to the pastedown. Robison Beale was a professor at Wellesley from 1941-42. A very nice example, uncommon signed and with noted provenance.

The Real Life of Sebastian Knight is a perversely magical literary detective story -- subtle, intricate, leading to a tantalizing climax -- about the mysterious life of a famous writer. Many people knew things about Sebastian Knight as a distinguished novelist, but probably fewer than a dozen knew of the two love affairs that so profoundly influenced his career, the second one in such a disastrous way. After Knight's death, his half brother sets out to penetrate the enigma of his life, starting with a few scanty clues in the novelist's private papers. His search proves to be a story as intriguing as any of his subject's own novels, as baffling, and, in the end, as uniquely rewarding.

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