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Véra (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  1,050 ratings  ·  126 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, Me
Paperback, 480 pages
Published April 4th 2000 by Modern Library (first published 1999)
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3.85  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,050 ratings  ·  126 reviews

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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
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
Jan 06, 2010 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
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
ahenk goklu
Jan 31, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
She was smart as a whip. She spoke four languages. She was hard-working and meticulous. She was his first reader, his editor and his muse. She loved literature and she loved him... Oh Nabokov, you were one lucky man!
Beautiful biography with juicy details about a six-decade long marriage. Not to miss.
''Blind passion was one thing, all-knowing intimacy a rarer commodity.''
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
Feb 22, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
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
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
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
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
Larry Wang
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
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
Apr 21, 2012 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
Sep 19, 2016 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
Mar 29, 2015 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.
Eva Stachniak
Sep 30, 2011 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.
Nov 09, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
The book was well written and researched (for which I added one or two stars that I otherwise would not have), but I found both Vera and Vladimir dull, boring, insipid. He wrote books and short stories when he felt like it (between affairs?) and she acted as his secretary. They moved a lot and chased butterflies and fought incessantly. I could not finish the book, I disliked them so much.
Ayelet Waldman
Feb 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
1. I utterly identified with Véra.
2. My God, was she a loathsome woman.
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.
Oct 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You can't read Nabokov without also reading this book.
N Poplars
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
Charlene Xiaolan
May 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Yes, I need you, my fairy-tale. Because you are the only person I can talk with about the shade of a cloud, about the song of a thought—and about how, when I went out to work today and looked a tall sunflower in the face, it smiled at me with all of its seeds."

"You came into my life—not as one comes to visit... but as one comes to a kingdom where all the rivers have been waiting for your reflection, all the roads, for your steps."

Nabokov wrote in some of the letters to Vera not long after they
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
Feb 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
С каким обожанием супруги Набоковы относились друг к другу на протяжении пятидесятилетнего брака, как пережили нищету и литературный триумф, сколько работы скрывается за созданием, правками, публикацией и переводом одного романа и как одна хрупкая женщина стала поддержкой гениальному писателю. Читать тем, кому интересна тема эмиграции русских евреев первой волны, творчество Набокова, литературная арена США, Европы и России двадцатого столетия.
Sarah Rigg
Nov 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a superbly-written and well-researched biography that was a pleasure to read, and I was not at all surprised to find out it won the author a Pulitzer Prize. It examines the life of Vera Nabakov, wife, muse and secretary to Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabakov, best known to most as the author of "Lolita." Highly recommended.
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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
“He was universally charming, as only a writer in pursuit of a publisher can be.” 3 likes
“Briefly (Vladimir Nabokov) caught the (Superman) fever too, composing a poem, now lost, on the the Man of Steel's wedding night.” 2 likes
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