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Vera: (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)

3.85  ·  Rating Details ·  858 Ratings  ·  96 Reviews
Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for biography and hailed by critics as both "monumental" (The Boston Globe) and "utterly romantic" (New York magazine), Stacy Schiff's Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) brings to shimmering life one of the greatest literary love stories of our time. Vladimir Nabokov--the emigre author of "Lolita"; " Pale Fire"; and "Speak, Memory"--wrote his bo ...more
Hardcover, 608 pages
Published May 11th 1999 by Random House Canada (first published 1999)
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For you are the only person I can talk to--about the hue of a cloud, about the singing of a thought, and about the fact that when I went out to work today and looked each sunflower in the face, they all smiled back at me with their seeds.

This is how Vladimir Nabokov wrote to his wife, Véra. She was a lover of the arts and literature; a woman who spoke four languages and taught and translated modern langauages. She was also the integral half of Vladimir Nabokov, the man who was a great writer b
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
With this book I conclude my review of Gertrude Stein's "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas."

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas; Vladimir Nabokov and Vera Evseevna Slonim-Nabokov. Their lives and stories run along parallel lines.

Alice B. Toklas and Vera Nabokov both survived their famous partners. They both died at age 89. In "The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas", where Gertrude Stein appropriated the voice of her partner Alice, the latter called Gertrude Stein a "genius". Vera Nabokov simil
This is an interesting book, well worth reading and I recommend it. It is about both Vladimir Nabokov AND his wife, Véra. It is about a strong, wonderful marriage, despite the fact that Vladimir had several mistresses. It was a love match. What the book does best is open up to the reader their relationship, their understanding for each other and their shared interests, be it butterfly catching, their son Dimitri or and most importantly Vladimir’s writing. Véra saw the greatness of Vladimir’s wri ...more
Jan 21, 2010 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cried when I finished this book. And not because Vera Nabokov dies, just as VN does, but because Schiff does such an excellent job of writing about this amazing woman and an amazing love story, without trying too hard to solve Vera's mysteries (which would simply be impossible). Although perhaps Vera wouldn't have liked the book, I think VN would have approved of Schiff's writing, to at least some degree. Her language is fluid, and while my one complaint is perhaps too much Nabokov and not eno ...more
Dec 02, 2013 Julie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I don't understand how she forgave him, but I've also never felt anything like the connection between the Nabokovs--instantaneous and entire. Two aptly chosen words on the back of this book that concisely describe Schiff's greatest gift: "succint insight". Also, balance. The way Schiff writes and interacts with people reminds me of something dainty toeing confidently on a fragile surface. You marvel at her understanding of where the ice is thin and where it's not. Véra with her "crystalline laug ...more
Expanding Bookshelf
Vladmir Nabokov was a giant in the world of literature, celebrated for works like “Lolita”, and “King, Queen Knave” and his wife, Vera Nabokov was the ultimate woman behind the great man. Vera Nabokov was not only devoted to her husband’s literary career; she was crucial to it. Through 52 years of marriage and for 14 years after her spouse’s demise, she saw the sole meaning of her life as nourishing Nabokov and safeguarding his works and image for posterity. During the lean Berlin years, Vera pr ...more
Nov 25, 2014 Doreen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank God that's over.

I've realized that I come from the school of thought that would much rather let an artist's work speak for itself. Particularly when I admire a product, such as the exquisite Lolita, I find that looking into the way it was made rarely serves to make me appreciate it more. Such with Vladimir and, here, Véra Nabokov, who I am sure found much joy in their codependence but who strike me as being incredibly tedious, self-absorbed people. Stacy Schiff does her best to give an eve
Jan 18, 2016 Mimi rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2016
The only Nabokov I have read is the lovely, sweet, sad, and short The Wood Sprite. I had heard that he and Vera had an enduring love story, and I'm always game for that, so I picked up this non-fiction. Having taken several Russian Literature classes in college, I enjoyed the parts that discussed Vladimir's teaching (with Vera's help) and the issues and ideas that were discussed. However, Vera lived 89 years, and it felt like I lived every minute with her with the plodding pace of the story and ...more
Sep 07, 2009 Stephanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Stacy Schiff is a gifted writer and biographer. I enjoyed the intimate, comprehensive view into the life of Vladimir and Vera Nabokov. Theirs was a complicated, deep, nuanced love, and I'm so glad that I never had to challenge them in a game of Scrabble. It would have been bloody (in their favor).
Tatyana Naumova
Я очень сложно отношусь к биографиям, тем более к биографиям писательских жен и вообще к биографиям, которые затрагивают личную жизнь (а они все затрагивают, я в аду). До сих пор биографию Гумилева, где автор, поскальзываясь на слюне и желчи, писал о том, как Ахматова предавалась пороку со всеми подряд, а Гумилев, Гумилев, а Гумилев, по-моему, вообще не про это, а что там до Анны Андреевны, то свечку держать - это такое, не слишком занятие для исследователя (ну или можно в перерывах писать про н ...more
Sep 19, 2016 K.K. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-book-log

At the Midsouth Book Fest this September, I saw a conversation with Lauren Groff, the author of _Fates and Furies_, which I loved. She mentioned that the Vera biography was one of inspiration for the character of Mathilde.

I had gotten the audio version on Audible during a 2 for 1 sale a few months back; I didn't know what I had, but as soon as she mentioned it, I was thrilled to realize I already owned it. I started it IMMEDIATELY and didn't ever want to stop listening to it. The boo
The book traces Vladimir and Véra Nabokov from their time as Russian émigrés in Berlin until their deaths.

Véra Nabokov was enormously intelligent, hard working, and ambitious—not for herself, but for her husband. She recognized his talent and devoted her prodigious energies to advancing his career. This involved serving as his secretary, editor-contributor, translator, business manager, literary agent, graduate assistant in his university classes, chauffeur, archivist, and liaison to legal and
Apr 21, 2012 Meera rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
(I'm moving a few old reviews over from an abandoned book photo project on Flickr.)

This was a Bookmooch book, as I recall, from a few years ago, and it's taken me a while to get around to reading it. Nabokov has been one of my favorites since I was about twenty, which means I suppose that I have loved him for a longer time than I have loved Ross. This biography of Vera Nabokov does as it promises to do, in providing a portrait not of her, or of him, but of the entity that was V.N. squared. It's
Apr 16, 2015 Colleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never really expected to have a favorite biographer, but I do, and it's Stacy Schiff.

There are so many fascinating aspects to Vera's story - which stretches from pre-Revolutionary St Petersburg to the 1990s - and they're well-captured here. And her relationship with her husband, and her role in his work... well, if you've read him you should read this. There were just a few moments when the theorizing got a little too abstract/repetitive for me, but I really loved this book.
Rachel Jackson
Feb 09, 2014 Rachel Jackson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vladimir and Vera Nabokov, two names that are forever entwined together in history, seem to be the original power couple in modern times, as evidenced by Stacy Schiff's incredible, highly-researched biography. Even more striking is the fact that they were a powerful couple only in the literary world, which is often eclipsed by some of the more, shall we say, tangible fields. But Vera: Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov shows without a doubt that Vladimir Nabokov would not have been the success he was, the VN ...more
Katrina Sark
p.9-10 – Nearly half a million Russians had settled in Berlin over the previous three years, when the ruble went a long way and the city was cheaper for those fleeing the Revolution than any other. In suburbs, where residence permits could be obtained easily, proved especially welcoming. There were émigré Russian hairdressers, grocers, pawnshops, antique stores, foreign-exchange speculators, orchestras. There were two Russian soccer teams.

p.10 – Rul was created one of 150 Russian-language newsp
Eva Stachniak
Sep 30, 2011 Eva Stachniak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read it during the summer. What a biography! A portrait of a woman, literary wife, her husband's muse and secretary and his agent. Aloof, cerebral, utterly devoted to her husband's writing, Vera Nabokov was a formidable force. Stacy Schiff is a wonderful biographer. Thorough, honest and full of compassionate understanding of human foibles. As it is always with the two Nabokovs...if you take Vera you have to take Vladimir, too, so the book gives the insight to both.
Jeff Keehr
Nov 24, 2015 Jeff Keehr rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have known for a long time that Nabokov's wife was a partner in teaching his classes at Cornell: I learned that by reading the Lectures on Literature. Now I know how it all came about. Theirs was an extraordinary marriage, one in which the spouses shared so many interests that they seemed like twins. She was his biggest fan and his secretary and accountant and lawyer and agent, etc. etc. The reader was strident but I got used to her. Now I'm interested in reading some of Nabokov's other novels ...more
It's an interesting concept to write an entire biography of a famous author's wife. And Stacy Schiff certainly makes a case that Vera Nabakov was instrumental in the creation of Vladimir Nabokov's most famous works. Vera was his secretary, his agent, his editor, his sounding post and his support system. She set aside her own literary career in order to further her husband's and asked almost nothing in return. And by all accounts, theirs was a very true love (although that didn't stop Mr. Nabakov ...more
Feb 07, 2016 Frances rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Have you ever thought about how strangely, how easily our lives came together? And this is probably that God, bored up in heaven, experienced a passion he doesn’t often have. It’s as if in your soul there is a preprepared spot for every one of my thoughts…You came into my life and not the way a casual visitor might, but as one enters a kingdom, where all the rivers have waited for your reflection, all the roads for your footfall."

"Oh my joy, when will we live together, in a beautiful place, wit
Sep 26, 2016 Rick rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was not an easy read for me. I have found that reading scholarly books on a kindle to be not very satisfactory due to formatting or ignorance on my part you cannot move from the text to the notes easily and something gets lost in the translation. This book is really a dual biography of Vera Nabokov and her husband the famous/esteemed novelist Vladimir Nabokov. They were a fascinating pair that worked hand and glove to create an atmosphere where Nabokov could exercise his abilities.
The Nabo
Simona Friuli
Sep 12, 2016 Simona Friuli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
La scrittura di biografie dovrebbe esser punita con un eterno mutismo! Voglio bene a Véra e alla sua eroica abnegazione, e all'ego giustificatamente ipertrofico di Nabokov - proprio vero: il genio è nell'arte, non nella vita - un dio capitato sulla terra per errore. Bellissima biografia, metodica e estremamente curata; rimpiango l'ovvia assenza di un apparato critico, dissezionante le opere di Vladimir, e perdono qualche commento poco entusiasta dell'autrice, in merito al divino "Ada". Favoloso ...more
Although I don't think I would have liked Vera the person, this biography is a masterful portrait of the woman and the times and events of her life.
Ayelet Waldman
Feb 21, 2013 Ayelet Waldman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1. I utterly identified with Véra.
2. My God, was she a loathsome woman.
Oct 08, 2012 Lynda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You can't read Nabokov without also reading this book.
Feb 21, 2014 Wendy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After reading Schiff's amazing Cleopatra, I was eager to read about the wife of Vladimir Nabokov in this Pulitzer prize winning biography. Schiff is masterful, no doubt, but Vera is not as compelling a woman in history as Cleopatra. This was a book club read (as was Cleopatra, the previous year). A main thread of our discussion was trying to imagine a persona, an ego, that had so little need for public glory. In the end, we decided that, given her talents and drive, Vera Nabokov was an unusual w ...more
Feb 24, 2011 Gayle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
LOVED this book....The author won a pulitzer prize - and deserves it! Stacy Schiff has an elegant touch in this biography of a difficult subject, the wife of Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita) She spent her life trying to stay in the shadows - She and Vladimir were happily married for over 50 years, and both left Russia (st. petersburg) during the pogroms, and then had to leave their newly adopted city, Berlin, when Hilter rose in power (Vera was jewish) This book is a wonderful look at part of the histo ...more
I have never been so ambiguous about a book. It has been many years since I read a Nabokov novel or even his autobiography or biography. I always had a curiosity about Vera's part in his writing. After reading "Vera" I still don't have a definitive answer. Vera obviously was a big part of VN's writing life--she handled the business and tax affairs, seem to have a flair for negotiations and editorial comment. But she (and he) both denied she contributed to the narrative. I guess I am a proponent ...more
Aug 03, 2009 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly engaging biography. The author has created an entirely convincing world, obviously the world that she believes Vera Nabokov inhabited. We'll never know, of course, but I'm willing to suspend disbelief - for the moment at least - because Schiff is so skilled in marshalling, presenting and interpreting biograqphical detail in order to reveal her sense of Vera's personality, her beliefs, feelings, preferences, annoyances, and so on. Schiff suppresses any misgivings she may have felt at ...more
I did not anticipate that I would like the later part of the book more than the beginning. When reading biographies, I usually like learning about the subject's childhood because it's often an illuminating perspective from which to view their development as an individual. However, I felt that the beginning of Vera dragged with repetitive information. True, less was known about Vera as a child and young woman, and what Stacy Schiff did unearth was admirable, but much of content could be summarize ...more
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Stacy Schiff is the author of Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov), winner of the Pulitzer Prize; Saint-Exupéry, a Pulitzer Prize finalist; and A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America, winner of the George Washington Book Prize, the Ambassador Award in American Studies, and the Gilbert Chinard Prize of the Institut Français d'Amérique. All three were New York Times Notable Books; ...more
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