Nabokov in Berlin | Standpoint
He lived from 1932-37 with his wife and son at Nestorstrasse 22, in the
smart, quiet residential area of Wilmersdorf, comparable with London’s
Chelsea. The unfussy mansion block was his first real home after the
curtailed teenage years in Russia. The previous decade in Berlin had
been a series of removals from one rented address to the next after his
father was shot dead by Bolshevik agents in 1922. “That flat of ours in
one of those newfangled houses built in the modern, boxlike,
space-cheating, let-us-have-no-nonsense style…” So the imagined author
of Despair commented as his creator moved in. The building was
dull with an awkward tower in brick and glass towering up at its helm.
The protagonist of Nabokov’s next big project, The Gift,
dwelling in Agamemnonstrasse, thought that the boring architect of his
block had suddenly gone mad. After the war, these leafy streets had to
be raised from the rubble. (Tiny bronze plaques mark their 1954
resurrection). The Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov lived here, 1932-37, it says, but you could easily pass by that dim bronze plaque from 1999, fading into a brownish façade.