Book Reviews of Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)

Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)
Vera - Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov
Author: Stacy Schiff
ISBN-13: 9780375755347
ISBN-10: 0375755349
Publication Date: 4/4/2000
Pages: 480
Rating:
  • Currently 2.8/5 Stars.
 12

2.8 stars, based on 12 ratings
Publisher: Modern Library
Book Type: Paperback
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She was wearing a black satin mask when they first met in 1923, and in a sense she wore a mask--that of the dutiful wife and helpmeet--throughout their 52-year marriage. Especially after the American publication of Lolita made her husband notorious in 1958, Véra Nabokov's presence at her husband's side was crucial, writes her biographer Stacy Schiff: "[It] kept the fiction in its place, reassured readers ... that Nabokov's perversities were of a different kind." But Véra Slonim (1902-91) was essential to Vladimir Nabokov's literary career from the beginning. She had a gift for handling practical matters that her spouse proudly lacked; she screened him from his publishers and his admirers with equal firmness, and in doing so she liberated him to fulfill the artistic genius they both believed he possessed. Praised for a previous biography of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Schiff here cements her reputation as a literary biographer of striking subtlety and perceptiveness. She establishes a strong base in chapter 1 with her excellent analysis of Véra Slonim's youth in a privileged Russian Jewish family in St. Petersburg. She then pursues her subject's elusive personality through hints in Nabokov's work and the comments of friends and colleagues. Schiff's elegant prose and eye for nuance nearly match Nabokov himself in this lucid, unsentimental portrait of a marriage. --Wendy Smith --