Vera (Mrs.Vladimir Nabokov)
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Vera (Mrs.Vladimir Nabokov)

3.9 of 5 stars 3.90  ·  rating details  ·  511 ratings  ·  64 reviews
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...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published June 9th 2000 by Random House (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 bu...more
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...more
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
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
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
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
(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...more
Rachel Jackson
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
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).
Stacy Schiff is a good writer but ugh! I didn't care about either of these people. On and on and on about his writing and her editing. There was no love story here. I was glad when they died.
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
1. I utterly identified with Véra.
2. My God, was she a loathsome woman.
You can't read Nabokov without also reading this book.
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
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
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
Paula Dembeck
Winner of the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for biography.

Set in prewar Europe and postwar America, it spans the life of Vera and Vladimir Nabokov’s 52 year marriage. She was the dutiful wife and helpmate, essential to his literary career from its very beginnings.

Vera had a gift of handling practical matters one that he proudly lacked. She screened him from both admirers and publishers, liberating him to be the literary genius they both believed he was. For almost all their married lives they were insepar...more
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...more
18 plus hours of very interesting life of Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov owes much of his success to Vera, the countless details of the very complexities of day to day life made easier for Mr to write. Vera negotiated writing contracts, including unheard of "inflation" clause and even rescued Lolita from the garbage when Vladimir thought it turned out miserably. Oh yes, she edited and helped in the countless translations of his works as well as set up and ran the household. I really mean ran the...more
Jordan Pahl
I will admit that it took me a long time to get through this book. As a devoted Nabokov fan, I picked it up a little over a year ago and found it difficult to read. However, when I did finally get around to finish it, I could not put it down.
This book is not for the faint of heart, nor is it for those who are not deeply familiar with Vladimir Nabokov's work already. Without that context and without the love for his work and intense interest in the story, I would not have found it so enthralling....more
I thought this would be a fascinating book about a fascinating woman, the wife of Vladimir Nabokov. Initially I found it rather boring but as I persevered, I was interested in the life this couple led. My copy of the book was in very light coloured and small print. Combined with all the footnotes and all the details, I just found this book a tough slog though I did enjoy it more as I got about a third of the way through it. I have to hand it to the author who did a tremendous job of researching...more
A wonderfully touching biography of an extraordinary "literary wife". Always elegant, regal, unbelievably erudite, Vera Nabokov (nee Sirin) is an easy subject for an interesting biography. The book is filled with amusing anecdotes from the Nabokovs' life together, but it gets rather sad toward the end, as it really becomes difficult to consider somebody so full of llife as either one of the pair mortal. As impressive as Maria Dostoevsky's and Sophia Tolstoy's support to their great husbands migh...more
Hard to get into, but I became addicted after 75 pages. Between Schiff's engaging writing and the vastly entertaining world of the literati she portrays I couldn't put it down. The obstacle in the way of a five-star rating is the extensive reference to Nabokov's work without summaries--which, for someone who has yet to even crack Lolita , was an obstacle indeed. Still Vera Nabokov's fierce devotion to her husband and his craft (and the witty zingers she delivered to those she disliked) made thi...more
Eva Stachniak
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.
I have read this a few years ago and wanted to re-visit it. Glad I did. It is not a fast read, it has so many footnotes and really makes me want to read books by Nobakov. "Vera" and her husband had a realationship like none I have ever heard of. If it weren't for her - I wonder/doubt whether he would have had the success he did. He was helpless, hopeless, but a great writer. He had "real and learned helplessness". She pretty much gave up her life for his.
Doris Davis
I am listening to the eBook. I am at Chapter 5 and wondering why she chose to write about Vera instead of her husband, the author. Was it to show how a strong woman could help advance her husband? I'm not getting it. Was it to show the humility of a woman in love with a talented man who downplays her role in making her husband successful? If you have read this book, please let me know your opinions.
I didn't love this book. Interesting relationship. She did sooo much for him. She put together his classes and even taught them.

They loved each other deeply but he was weak and would have affairs if she was away.

One thing was interesting. They had no patience with the academic/limousine liberal's romance with socialism. They had escaped that nightmare and had no illusions about it.
I came to dislike the Nabokovs rather a lot after reading this book. I don't read him anymore. It soured me. I think of their nasty portrait every time I try. The moral of the story is: don't read biographies of your favorite authors. These two reminded me of a number of miserable, cranky old intellectual (sometimes in their own minds)types I have known well and not-so-well.
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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
More about Stacy Schiff...
Cleopatra: A Life A Great Improvisation: Franklin, France, and the Birth of America Saint-Exupéry The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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