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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