Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)

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May 21, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Novelist Vladimir was a dream of a writer — and not least because he married a dream of a writer’s wife. Destined to be not merely a muse but also a typist, researcher, teaching assistant, first reader, and chauffeur, Vera Slonim wore a mask when she met her future husband at a Russian ball in 1920s Berlin. Thereafter, she served as his mask, his interface with the outer world through the trials of emigre Europe, the strains of academic America, and the bustle and glory that followed Lolita. Though Stacy Schiff is oddly incurious about whether Vera’s incomparable selflessness was a good thing for Vera herself, as a biography Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov) is otherwise clear, brisk, and broad, offering conclusive evidence of the beauty of the Nabokovs’ loving literary partnership. A-

Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)

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Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)

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