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Strong Words in the Manuscript Room

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nabokovLet’s take a little test. I’m going to say a word, and you’re going to say the next word that leaps into your mind. OK, here goes:


You said “Lolita,” right?

Of course. Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” published in 1955 and made into a film directed by Stanley Kubrick in 1962, is the work most identified with the Russian-American author. It’s entered into the parlance, seeped far into the public consciousness: even popular music in the ‘80s featured Sting referring to the novel and its author in the Police song, “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.”

But there’s a lot more to Nabokov than the yearnings of Humbert Humbert. And this week – for the first time in 50 years without special permission – researchers can visit the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress for access to a vast array of papers donated to the Library by Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) and members of his family, from materials related to “Lolita” to background on his numerous novels, short stories, poems, literary criticism and film treatments. Most of it is in English or Russian, although some is in German; some of Nabokov’s materials are written under the pen name V. Sirin.

One other note – Vladimir Nabokov’s character may have gotten butterflies pursuing a nymphet, but Nabokov got butterflies pursuing butterflies: he was an accomplished lepidopterist.

UPDATE: Here is a direct link to the finding aid for the collection. (PDF)

(Nabokov image found at


  1. That is so interesting. I didn’t know about Nabokov being a lepidopterist. Good post.

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