Nabokov and Berlin
June 5-6, 2020
Co-organizers: Luke Parker, Lisa Ryoko Wakamiya
Proposal Deadline: January 5, 2020
From 1922-1937 Vladimir Nabokov lived and wrote in Berlin. During these years he established his reputation in the Russian émigré community as a prolific prose writer, playwright, poet, and translator. The precision and irony with which he documented Berlin’s creative and material culture revealed his simultaneous immersion in and detachment from the city. This strategy, and the works he produced in Berlin, would resonate throughout his career in later translations, adaptations, reminiscences and reworkings.
Berlin occupies a dominant place in Nabokov’s biography and creative imagining—it was his “true birthplace as a writer.” It was a place of personal trauma and personal survival, of literal birth as well as death. “Russian Berlin” was a place of “inner freedom,” and the crossroads of American, Soviet, and European modernity. Attuned to developments in German intellectual and cultural discourse, Nabokov addressed familiar interwar concerns from a startling insider-outsider perspective. At the same time, with multilingual works across genres, Nabokov developed an international career even in the 1930s.
Nabokov’s explorations of the workings of memory and representing the self in a shattered world find echoes in postwar German artistic culture. In Fassbinder’s adaptation of Despair and novels by W.G. Sebald, Nabokov’s Berlin returns as a reference point.
“Nabokov and Berlin,” an international conference sponsored by the International Vladimir Nabokov Society, will be held on June 5-6, 2020 at the Literaturhaus-Berlin. The academic conference component will bring together studies of Nabokov’s Berlin, its relation to the American years, and the refractions of Nabokov’s writings in German culture. The presenters include scholars from Europe and the United States whose research has contributed to our understanding of Nabokov’ relation to the city of Berlin, Weimar and Nazi culture, interwar modernity, and German language and contemporary literature.