On 23 February 2012 in Montreux Switzerland, Dmitri Nabokov, son of the author, Vladimir Nabokov, died.
Dmitri’s death touched many throughout the world for a variety of different reasons. For some, he was the last link to his father as he was the guardian of Vladimir Nabokov’s literary works and memory. For others, he was a great friend whose zest for life and penchant for courting danger were contagious. Whether he climbed the Swiss Alps, pushing himself and some of us to the limits of our strength, or raced Ferraris and Vipers, scaring us to death when he drove at race-car speeds around the hair-pin curves in the Alps on the way to dinner, or simply entertained us with his model trains and helicopters, Dmitri was an original. There was no one like him.
For me, his death marked the end of a fifty year friendship that had its ups and downs, ins and outs, and that began in 1962 when I was a sixteen year old student at a boarding school in Montreux, Switzerland. It was there, spending Christmas at the Montreux Palace Hotel, that I met Dmitri who had come to visit his parents for the winter holidays. Through Paul Rossier, then director of the hotel, Dmitri was able to take a look at my passport to find out my name, age, and where I came from. When my school friend and I were having tea in the Rose Bar, Dmitri wandered in and struck up a conversation. “How’s the weather in New York?” he said to which I replied, “I wouldn’t know since I’m in boarding school in Montreux.”
That was the beginning of our relationship that had many incarnations throughout the world for half a century.