cover image Letters to Vera

Letters to Vera

Vladimir Nabokov, edited and trans. from the Russian by Olga Voronina and Brian Boyd. Knopf, $35 (864p) ISBN 978-0-307-59336-8

It's hard to imagine Vladimir Nabokov spending enough time away from his wife, Vera, to write even a single letter to her, much less a massive collection of them. However, in this authoritative and charming new volume, we learn that early in their marriage, the famed author of Lolita wrote to his wife frequently while traveling. Most of the letters were written between 1923 and 1944, a period that found Vladimir often living in places such as Paris, Brussels, and Prague, while his wife and young son stayed in Berlin or traveled elsewhere. Vera, editor Boyd tell us, did not respond in kind nearly as often (and most of the letters she did write were destroyed), but Vladimir's attachment to his wife, as revealed here, is simply astounding. The letters include drawings for their son, Dmitri; riddles for Vera; and endearments like "my kitty" and "my darling." It's clear that his world revolved around her. In the very first letter, Vladimir writes "I need you, my fairy-tale... you are the only person I can talk with about the shade of a cloud, about the song of a thought." These letters form a touching record of a famous literary marriage and further attest to the great novelist's sheer devotion and erudition. (Nov.)