The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov

In this 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, 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.


The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov was awarded the 2012 Ferro-Grumley Award for Fiction; the Independent Publisher Book Award’s Silver Medal, Literary Fiction Category; the Foreword Reviews Book of the Year Award’s Silver Medal, Gay & Lesbian Category; and was a Lambda Literary Award finalist.


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“A story that will make you laugh and smile then breaks your heart, this is a rich tapestry of the human condition. Highly recommended.”—Library Journal (starred review)


“In literary heaven, where Vladimir Nabokov now resides, he wouldn’t approve of this convincing dream evocation of the life of his gay brother, but the novel is a sidelong tribute to Nabokov—tender, sad, and moving, with touches of the Maestro’s elegance.”—Herbert Gold, author of Fathers


“The historical life of Sergey Nabokov was altogether real and all too short. But there are forms of history that only fiction can suggest, and this subtle novel movingly brings back from the shadows a rich, lost life.” —Michael Wood, author of The Magician’s Doubts: Nabokov and the Risks of Fiction


“An extraordinary novel, tender, fierce, and graceful… A tour de force.”—Brenda Wineapple, author of White Heat


“Splendid… A stylish and tragic ‘confluence of histories, cultures, and languages.'”— The Washington Post

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