- Hardcover: 816 pages
- Publisher: Penguin (25 September 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0141192232
- ISBN-13: 978-0141192239
- Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 5.4 x 24 cm
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,40,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Letters to Vera (Penguin Hardback Classics) Hardcover – 25 Sep 2014
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[These] letters contain some of the most moving passages he would ever write, full of alternately impressionistic and exquisitely detailed glimpses at the world around him, which he portrays as almost painfully beautiful . . . The Nabokov on display in this beautifully produced volume . . . [is] an author who sees his task as talking his fragile reader down from an upper-storey ledge by showing her the luminosity of a world that has somehow ceased to be a source of delight . . . [This] publication is an impressive achievement . . . The richly textured, eminently readable translations by Boyd and Olga Voronina are admirably faithful (Times Literary Supplement)
Some of the most rapturous love letters anyone has ever written, love letters from the length of a lifelong marriage; beautiful performances for Véra, Nabokov's wife, and incidentally for us . . . so absorbing . . . sentences of pure magic (Philip Hensher Spectator)
A compelling record, it confirms Nabokov as possibly the most happily married writer of the 20th century. Every one of his books was dedicated to Véra; she was the sure centre of his world . . . Tinged with a sensuous immediacy of detail, Letters to Véra is a record of rapture . . . Superbly edited by Olga Voronina and Brian Boyd, these letters reveal Nabokov as a considerable wit, with a gift for terse put-downs and fascination with what remained outside his class and culture - whether it was Greyhound buses in Massachusetts or the New York subway. Now, perhaps for the first time, the Russian writer emerges distinct from the shadows of his biographers, and as one of the most uxoriously besotted writers of all time (Ian Thomson Observer)
Nabokov's letters to Véra, translated from the Russian and published for the first time in a handsome and meticulously edited edition, provide insight into the unfolding of Nabokov's considerable talent. It has been a collaborative production, driven by the doyen of Nabokov scholarship, Brian Boyd, and assisted by Olga Voronina, of Bard College . . . this is Nabokov uncut (Duncan White Telegraph)
About the Author
Vladimir Nabokov was born in 1899 in St Petersburg. He wrote his first literary works in Russian, but rose to international prominence as a masterly prose stylist for the novels he composed in English, most famously, Lolita. Between 1923 and 1940 he published novels, short stories, plays, poems and translations in the Russian language and established himself as one of the most outstanding Russian émigré writers. He died in 1977.
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Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
This review should come with a warning: I'm highly conflicted about the works of Vladimir Nabokov. In a college class I was once asked to read a selection of paragraphs by various famous authors, without knowing the authors' actual names. I loved all of the selections with the exception of one hideously overwrought landscape description, that was clearly pure kitsch. To this day I despise the source of the quote: Nabokov's "Lolita." Yet one of my all time favorite books is his "Speak Memory." Another is "The Gift." How could the same writer produce both styles?
When I read Brian Boyd's masterful biography of Nabokov, I loved volume 1 about Nabokov the Russian writer, and hated volume 2 about Nabokov the American novelist. Not because of Boyd, but because of the subject. After achieving wealth and fame with "Lolita," Nabokov's self presentations in interviews are particularly egregious: dishonest, arrogant, and great fun to read. Nabokov delighted in hoaxes, doubles, mimicry, and disguises. So I'm grateful that Brian Boyd, with his wealth of knowledge about the "real" Nabokov, was willing to work with the translator Olga Voronina on annotating Nabokov's "Letters to Vera," his fiercely devoted wife. While fact-oriented, Boyd is still dutifully respectful of both the author and his wife. Michael Maar's "Speak, Nabokov," is a useful antidote to the usual hagiography. Maar was the first to point out the obscure German work by Lichberg that foreshadows "Lolita" in terms of subject matter and title. Not the object of direct plagiarism, but a surprising source for an author who claimed not to know the German language.
Is learning about the man from his letters a breach of privacy? Even the early letters were definitely intended to be kept and reread. In fact, he altered his style after re-reading some of the first letters to Vera. Some observations worked their way into his poetry.(p. 248/716) He once visualized what the correspondence with look like as a published volume, and chided Vera that her part would look too small, she should write more. He was self-aware that letters by a writer have special interest. He expected them to be read by German censors at the very least, and used a pseudonym for himself and coded language in certain passages. I don't think this volume represents an invasion of privacy. Anything compromising has been destroyed already by the vigilant Vera herself.
The letters make many things clear, that contradict later protestations: yes, he understood German. He was delighted to be called the new Rilke.(p.236) Yes, he enjoyed music. He used numerous musical references.(p.23, p. 102) No, his marriage was not totally "cloudless." He was quite capable of lying to Vera about his encounters with others. (letters from 1937.)
I once talked with Nina Berberova about him. She was one of the early readers who discovered his genius when he was a penniless emigre poet giving readings in Paris. She was not overly fond of Vera, and she felt that Nabokov was hiding things. Some of his early personality, the personality that enchanted Berberova comes through in the first part of this volume.
There is an endearing lightness in the letters written before 1940. Some have a Rilke-like inflection: "All the rivers have been waiting for your reflection." (p. 8)Often still boyish, he speculates that heaven will be boring as smoking is forbidden, but the angels smoke in secret. When the archangel is looking, they flick the cigarettes away--that's what falling stars are.... Perhaps in a riff on Omar's famous loaf of bread, bottle of wine and thou, "I need so little: a bottle of ink, a speck of sun on the floor --and you" (p. 35)I won't cite all of my favorite lines, always best for readers to encounter them unexpectedly. I hope this is enough to indicate that finding the "real" Nabokov, under all those self-protective layers--is worth the effort.
It is well translated.