NABOKOV, Vladimir (1899-1977). Conclusive Evidence. New York: Harper Brothers, 1951.
8o. Original half cloth; pictorial dust jacket (some wear to ends of spine panel and edges, with a few tape repairs). Provenance: Véra Nabokov (dedication inscription and Vladimir Nabokov's estate bookplate on front paste-down).
THE DEDICATION COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED BY NABOKOV TO HIS WIFE VÉRA IN RUSSIAN, ACCOMPANIED BY AN ELABORATLY COLORED BUTTERFLY.
Nabokov's inscription in Russian on the dedication page reads: "My darling 23. I. 1951" (three weeks before the official publication date) with Nabokov's list of three misprints corrected: "classroom" to "schoolroom"; "1919" to "1918"; and "rustled" to "soughed, still leafless." The butterfly, a large colorful, detailed Brushfoot, from an African genus, carefully drawn on the front free endpaper, is named Eugenia onegini for Pushkin's classic, which he would spend a decaded translating and publishing (1964) and another ten years revising (1975).
With an additional inscription to Véra beneath the butterfly: "To my darling." Body cites "a little-known interview" during which Nabokov "explained that he chose Conclusive Evidence for the two v sounds together at the center of the title, as a secret link looping together Vladimir and Véra. Like its title, the whole autobiography was designed as a tribute to his wife. When she emerges late in the story the 'you' to whom the book has been addressed, it becomes apparent that the love affairs of childhood and youth that Nabokov has described with mounting intensity will find their apotheosis in her. But he will not describe their relationship directly" (Boyd The American Years Princeton, 1991 p. 629).
[Laid in]: A typed note signed "Vladimir Nabokov" in pencil and titled "Discarded introduction to Conclusive Evidence; the title was tentatively The House Was There."
The note continues: "The house was there. Right there. I never imagined the place would have changed so completely [since 1917]. How dreadful - I don't recognize a thing. No use walking any farther. Sorry, Hopkinson, to have made you come such a long way. I had been looking forward to a perfect orgy of nostalgia and recognition! That man over there seems to be growing suspicious. Speak to him. Turistï. Amerikantsí. Oh, wait a minute. Tell him I am a ghost. You surely know the Russian for "ghost"? Mechta. Prizrak. Metafizicheskiy kapitalist. Run Hopkinson!"
This poetic introduction - so unlike the explanatory forewords he would write for many subsequent works - projects a return to Russia that Nabokov never undertook. The "house" was Vyra, the Nabokovs' country retreat 50 miles outside St. Petersburg, vividly described in Conclusive Evidence. Its location is depicted on the map of the family lands printed from Nabokov's sketch on the endpapers of the 1967 edition (see lot 237).
Nabokov explains the publication history in the author's note: "This account of the author's European past is as truthful as he could possibly make it. If there are any lapses, they are due to the frailty of memory, not to the trickery of art. Chapters I to IV, VI to XII, and XV appeared in the New Yorker. Much, however, has been added to some of them in the process of completing the book. This also applies to Chapter V, a version of which was printed in the Atlantic Monthly. Chapter XI and XIV came out in the Parisian Review and Chapter XIII in Harper's Magazine. Juliar A26.1.