WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR BIOGRAPHY • NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From the award–winning author of The Revolutionary and The Witches comes “an elegantly nuanced portrait of [Vladimir Nabokov’s] wife, showing us just how pivotal Nabokov’s marriage was to his hermetic existence and how it indelibly shaped his work.”—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
ONE OF ESQUIRE’S 50 BEST BIOGRAPHIES OF ALL TIME
“Monumental.”—The Boston Globe
“Utterly romantic.”—New York magazine
“Deeply moving.”—The Seattle Times
Stacy Schiff brings to shimmering life one of the greatest literary love stories of our time: Vladimir Nabokov, émigré author of Lolita; Pale Fire; and Speak, Memory, and his beloved wife, Véra. Nabokov wrote his books first for himself, second for his wife, and third for no one at all. “Without my wife,” he once noted, “I wouldn’t have written a single novel.”
Set in prewar Europe and postwar America, spanning much of the twentieth century, the story of the Nabokovs’ fifty-two-year marriage reads as vividly as a novel. Véra, both beautiful and brilliant, is its outsized heroine—a woman who loves as deeply and intelligently as did the great romantic heroines of Austen and Tolstoy. Stacy Schiff's Véra is a triumph of the biographical form.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
A great artist’s wife or lover is usually called his “muse,” but this entertaining biography proves Vladimir Nabokov’s spouse was so much more. From the time Véra Slonim met her fellow Russian émigré in 1920s Berlin, theirs was an enviably close relationship. Véra herself was a gifted, multilingual translator—and she served as her husband’s editor, proofreader, agent, and business manager throughout his career. (Also his driver: Vladimir apparently wrote most of his notorious Lolita in the back seat of Véra’s Oldsmobile.) What Stacy Schiff captures in this Pulitzer-winning biography is more than just a professional partnership: Véra and Vladimir were intellectual equals always down for a spirited philosophical argument and totally moony about each other for their whole half-century-plus marriage. Véra is incredibly well researched (with footnotes that get pretty gossipy), but totally approachable even if all you know about Nabokov is his shout-out in the Police hit “Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” We wish every literary biography were like this.