Nabokov the Poet – Home-made and illegal in Russia

NABOKOV, Vladimir

Stikhi [Poetry]

Publication: [USSR, 1970s].

NABOKOV, Vladimir, Stikhi [Poetry]

Some of Nabokov’s most scandalous poems, of course banned in Soviet Union and here in an illegal “edition” home-made in Brezhnev’s USSR. Very rare.

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Our Notes & References

Very rare ‘samizdat’ of Nabokov: we could not find any examples of Nabokov in samizdat in the West, and only one example of Nabokov’s samizdat poetry at auction in Russia. With artistic provenance.

This ‘home-made’ selection of Nabokov’s poems is copied from 1979 US-printed edition of his collected Stikhi [Poetry] , published by the important Ardis press in Ann Arbor. The famous edition was banned in the USSR, after having been prepared by Nabokov himself and finalised by his wife Vera after his death in 1977. Nabokov, who “for a long time considered himself first and foremost as a poet” (Malikova), left a considerable poetic legacy: his “almost complete edition of poetry” (Vera Nabokov), Stikhi, consists of almost 250 poems, from which the compiler of this samizdat chose 40, from 1918-39; they also added a title and a table of content for this smaller, simply typed ‘edition’ for personal use. A couple of titles in French are also added in text manually for the typist may not have had any Latin character.

Most of the selected poems describe the narrator’s longing for home, reflections about Russia and challenges of new life as an immigrant — themes with which many creators of samizdats could resonate well, being in an ‘inner emigration’ while still in the Soviet Union. Some of the poems are firmly and dangerously anti-Soviet, such as “Poet” (1918, first published in 1923) and the famous poem titled here “To Russia”, “Otviazhis, ia tibia umoliaiu” [“Will you leave me alone, I implore you”] (1939), written at the very beginning of the Second World War and prompted by “the nasty pact between two totalitarian monsters” – Nazi Germany and Bolshevik Russia, as Nabokov himself pointed out.

The samizdat additionally includes an explicitly erotic poem (also unimaginable in Soviet print), “Lilith” (1928), prefiguring Nabokov’s later bestseller Lolita (1955).


Aleksandr Belobokov (b. 1945, a noted Russian film historian, screenwriter, documentary film director and cameraman; inscription in blue ink on title).


Grigorii Utgof, “Top-7 Stikhotvorenii Nabokova” // Mir Vladimira Nabokova, Arzamas academy.

M. A. Malikova, “Zabytyi poet” // V. V. Nabokov, Stikhotvoreniia, Sankt Peterburg, Akad. proekt, 2002.

Item number



Physical Description

Folio (30.2 x 21 cm). Title, 30 ll. typescript on verso of each leaf, loose.


Title lightly soiled and rubbed at extremities, with a couple of small closed tears and light creases, t.o.c. with a few marginal closed tears.

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