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Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)

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3.85  ·  Rating details ·  964 Ratings  ·  114 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 Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) brings to shimmering life one of the greatest literary love stories of our time. Vladimir Nabokov--the émigré author of Lolita; Pale Fire; and Speak, Memory--wrote his books fir ...more
Paperback, 480 pages
Published June 9th 2000 by Random House (first published 1999)
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Cheryl
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
...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
BAM The Bibliomaniac
Vera is a nonentity. This book is really about Vladimir and how his life was enriched by his wife of 50+ years.
The narrative started strong, but once the family moved to the USA it became quite uninteresting. I'm going to hang in and finish, but honestly i don't care anymore. This is definitely not Cleopatra.
2.5 stars unless one is looking for a testament to a happy marriage

2017 Lenten Buddy Reading Challenge book #23
Amy
Jan 06, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Chrissie
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
Doreen
Nov 13, 2014 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
...more
Stephanie
Feb 22, 2009 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).
Domenico Fina
Oct 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nel 1923 a Berlino, mentre nella stessa città Kafka vive i suoi ultimi giorni felici con Dora, si incontravano Nabokov e Véra. Splendida biografia di Stacy Schiff, meritato premio Pulitzer nel 2000. Véra era una traduttrice russa, di origine ebraica, emigrata con la sua famiglia a Berlino. Ha 21 anni e Nabokov 24. Lei lascia intendere di non aver avuto altre storie, Nabokov confessa di aver avuto già “16 infatuazioni serie e 18 superficiali”. L’anno prima il padre di Nabokov è stato ucciso in un ...more
Expanding Bookshelf
Jun 03, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Julie
Jun 14, 2012 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
Nell
May 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Katrina Sark
Apr 11, 2016 rated it liked it
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
...more
Richard F. Schiller
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nabokov
Well-researched, interesting overview of the mysterious Vera Nabokov's life. Reading about the Nabokov's, it really seems as if there was a blending of art and life in their existence; fact and fiction seem to be intertwined. One thing that really stuck out to me was simply how tolerant Vera was regarding her husband. Vladimir cheated multiple times, including a huge, drawn-out affair with Irina Guadinini where he nearly left his wife and child and yet Vera forgave him almost seamlessly every ti ...more
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
John
Jun 25, 2009 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
Mimi
Jan 10, 2016 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
Meera
Apr 21, 2012 rated it liked it
(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
K.K.
Sep 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-book-log
Phenomenal.

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
...more
Colleen
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
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.
Eva Stachniak
Sep 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Ayelet Waldman
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
1. I utterly identified with Véra.
2. My God, was she a loathsome woman.
Whitney
Jan 03, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Lynda
Oct 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
You can't read Nabokov without also reading this book.
N Poplars
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was ok
The author presupposes a knowledge of the works of VN, or otherwise one needs to have such knowledge, to somewhat appreciate this work, as she interweaves characters from his work to analogize the couple and their life, leaving readers like me completely lost. There is no real structure to the book, which chronologically is all over the place not only from one paragraph to the next but even within paragraphs as well as moving from one unrelated thought to the next. Throughout the book and upon f ...more
crystal jarek
May 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. I had no idea what this woman had experienced and her level of support for her husband's writing. It took me about 20 pages to relax with this book and then I found myself not putting it down, most likely due to the pull of the author in a way that gave me a solid feel of Vera's life. It's rare to find a book about one half of a very involved couple that lets you see clearly who that one half was, and yet convey the nature of the relationship. It's a fine dance, and Stacy Schiff does it wel ...more
Grace Hoffmann
Jan 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Really impressive biography of Vera Nabokov. Super interesting to learn about their multiple exiles, their long slog at Cornell and ultimate triumph of Lolita and Pale Fire. Intensely intellectual and perfectly paired. I didn't know much about Nabokov's writing but enjoyed this biography.
Sue Campbell
Nov 01, 2017 rated it liked it
The narrative was dense and moved slowly. It didn't help that I didn't like the way Vera Nabokov gave herself entirely to her husbands life, sublimating herself for what she saw as the greater good.
Tanya Mar
Mar 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Story of the woman who was the right hand, the heart and soul of Vladimir Nabokov. From the first days in immigration and through all the life with a constant failures until the world recognition Vera was the shadow of the writer. At first like a lover and then more like a twin she was important part of Nabokov's life and especially his books.
I'm not sure I can understand a woman who put her life aside and had a cult of her husband, but I admire her. And I think everyone who is a big fan of Nab
...more
Jeni Quigg
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
I just loved the historical fiction of it. Fascinated by their character. I must've admit though I didn't end up finishing the book - which is really shocking for me. But the hitting you over the head with the same summation of who Vera was - I just couldn't take it anymore. So four stars for 3/4 of the book!
Rachel Jackson
Feb 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
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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...
“He wrote Véra sheepishly: “Something has happened (only don’t be angry). I can’t remember (for God’s sake, don’t be angry!) I can’t remember (promise that you won’t be angry), I can’t remember your telephone number.” He knew it had a seven in it, but the rest had entirely escaped him.” 1 likes
“Blind passion was one thing, all-knowing intimacy a rarer commodity.” 1 likes
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