Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) was born in Saint Petersburg, had to flee in 1917 after the October Revolution and went to Trinity College in Cambridge (UK) to read zoology and languages. In 1922 he joined his family who had by then moved to Berlin. From there in 1937 he had to flee Nazi-Germany, together with his wife Vera, via France to at last reaching the US in 1940. He earned a living first as an entomologist later as a lecturer until, in 1955, his novel „Lolita“ was such a great success, that he could quit teaching and devote himself to writing.

Nabokov wrote a number of novels and novellas, up until the late 1930s in Russian, later he wrote in English. My personal favourites are „Invitation to a Beheading“ (1936/1959), „Pnin“ (1957) and „The Luzhin Defense“ or „The Defense“ (1930/1964) . The latter tells the life of Lushin. As a boy he has diffuculties making friends and is bullied by his classmates. He then discovers chess and at first is fascinated by the game, but over the years this fascination turns into obsession. He shows great talent in playing chess and winning tournaments, but increasingly looses his grip on reality on the way.

In 2001 I created a series of six woodcuts inspired by the story of Lushin. The six woodcuts each show one chess piece, i. e. queen, king, rook, pawn, bishop and knight. The pieces serve as a kind of avatar for the character of Lushin and are each placed in a situation described in the text. For the special edition the respective passages from the text have been hand set from 28pt condensed-light Futura. The novel virtually is the story of Lushin gradually becoming mentally deranged, so the typography of the sheets mirrors this development in that the text blocks become increasingly deranged, literally.

Some of the woodcuts are printed from two blocks. The woodcuts (approx. 50x33cm) are on Johannot deckled edge paper, the text sheets (approx. 29x60cm) are on Hahnemühle deckled edge paper. The sheets are placed in a portfolio folded from a sheet of strong deckled edge paper. The portfolio (approx. 60x40cm) is bound with black satin ribbon that loops through a ring of snowflake obsidian.

Special edition Copies 1 to 11 (6 woodcuts + 6 text sheets)
Standard edition: Copies 12 to 22 (6 woodcuts)

Printed in 2001

Vladimir Nabokov, Gesammelte Werke, Band 2, Frühe Romane II, editor: Dieter E. Zimmer. Copyright 1961 by Rowohlt Verlag GmbH, Reinbek near Hamburg.

With permission of Rowohlt Verlag text passages taken from: Vladimir Nabokov „Lushins Verteidigung“, German translation by Dietmar Schulte.