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The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov
A Novel
Paul Russell
ISBN: 9781573447195
Book (Paperback)
Cleis Press
$16.95
5 x 8
320 pages
November 8, 2011


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"Russell has succeeded in the impressive feat of making vivid and compelling the story of a vulnerable hanger-on, a person Vladimir Nabokov described as a “shadow in the background.”" —Historical Novel Society

"There's a lot of great stuff in this book, and it certainly made me want to know more about the man, the time in which he lived, and more about his famous brother's books." —Glorified Love Letters

"What struck me most about this work was the lavish, beautiful prose. I’ve read few modern novels that can compare. The voice Paul Russell captures is both lush and believable. The detail in the scenes he paints is remarkable." —Examiner

In his novel based on the extraordinary life of the gay brother of Vladimir Nabokov, Paul Russell re-creates the rich and changing world in which Sergey, his family and friends lived; from wealth and position in pre-revolutionary Russia, to the halls of Cambridge University, and the Parisian salon of Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. But it is the honesty and vulnerability of Sergey, our young gay narrator, that hook the reader: his stuttering childhood in the shadow of his brilliant brother, his opium-fueled evenings with his sometime lover Cocteau, his troubled love life on the margins of the Ballets Russes and its legendary cast, and his isolation in war torn Berlin where he will ultimately be arrested, sent to a camp and die in 1945. A meticulously researched novel, in which you will meet an extraordinary cast of characters including Picasso, Diaghilev, Stravinsky, Magnus Hirschfield ("Tante Magnesia"), Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Cocteau, and of course the master himself, Vladimir Nabokov, this is ultimately the story of a beautiful and vulnerable homosexual boy growing into an enlightened and courageous man.

Paul Russell is the accomplished author of various works of both fiction and non-fiction, including several award-winning novels, anthologies, poems, short stories, essays, and book reviews. He attended Oberlin College and later studied at Cornell University, where he earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing and a Ph.D. in English. Russell has taught English at Vassar College and the University of Exeter, and is a Professor of English at Vassar College. He lives in upstate New York.
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