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Women in Nabokov’s Life and Art


Edited By Nailya Garipova and Juan José Torres Núñez

Despite the considerable amount of criticism that Vladimir Nabokov’s literary legacy has produced since the sixties, the studies on his female characters are scarce, except the ones on Lolita. This volume delves into Nabokov’s women from different perspectives and points of view. The contributions are from different parts of the world, some from prominent scholars. These Nabokovians study the gender issue in Nabokov’s life and art, paying tribute to his women. The volume has two closely connected parts. In the first one, the reader can find biographical essays that discuss the role of the real women in Nabokov’s life and how their love, support and suffering are reflected in his prose. The second part deals with Nabokov’s women in his fiction. There is a discussion of the representation of female voices.
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Véra’s role in Nabokov’s life and prose


The Nabokovs’ marriage of fifty-two years stands out as exceptionally blissful, collaborative, and long lasting. Véra assisted her husband in all his projects, from literature to lepidoptera, becoming his full creative partner. However important Véra’s contribution to the writer, it was not as unusual as it is believed. In fact, the Nabokovs’ collaboration reflected a cultural trend of their country of origin and was typical for their time and milieu.

In Russia, literary marriage was defined by prominent examples: Sophia Tolstaya and Anna Dostoevskaya were their husbands’ literary connoisseurs, assistants, and publishers. These models entered national consciousness and influenced the Nabokovs’ generation in Russia and abroad. A number of Véra’s distinguished contemporaries – Nadezhda Mandelstam, Véra Muromtseva-Bunina, Elena Bulgakova, Klavdia Bugaeva, and Natalya Solzhenitsyna – became their husbands’ stenographers, editors, researchers, translators, biographers, and public representatives. Literary collaboration was at the centre of these prominent marriages, strengthening the couples’ bonds.

Like Véra, Nadezhda Mandelstam was a full partner in her husband’s creative work: Osip Mandelstam relied on her intuition and retentive memory. Later, Nadezhda memorized his poetry and prose, saving them from destruction in Stalin’s Russia. Having read Nadezhda’s memoirs in the 1970’s, Véra could relate to her collaboration with the poet and her expert knowledge of his works, which rivalled only that of their creator. Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov could also relate to Nadezhda’s loss of identity. In Hope Against Hope, Nadezhda maintained that her life began at nineteen, after...

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