Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025734, Fri, 26 Sep 2014 11:18:04 -0300

Letters to Véra ed. Olga Voronina and Brian Hoyd
A review of ‘Letters to Vera’, by Vladimir Nabokov. 27 September 2014

Letters to Véra Vladimir Nabokov, translated by Olga Voronina and Brian Boyd
Penguin Classics, pp.864, £30, ISBN: 9780141192239

"After the publication of The Original of Laura, Nabokov’s last and most
disappointing novel in a very sketchy draft, you might have been forgiven
for thinking there wasn’t much left to discover in the great novelist’s
writings. If the posthumous fiction has been mostly fairly thin, this
extraordinary and wonderful collection of letters to his wife restores him
to us as the virtuoso of prose. They are 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. The publishers have immediately issued this volume as a Penguin
Classic. I don’t think we will quibble with that." [ ] “Nabokov is such a
great letter writer because he wants to interest, not just pour out his
emotions. These letters must have been a joy to receive. He keeps his eyes
open, and concentrates on recording what he sees: Alongside the paths
coloured stripes are daubed on beech and oak trunks, and sometimes simply on
the rocks, like little flags to show the way to this or that hamlet. I
noticed too that peasants put red earflaps on their percherons and are cruel
with their geese, of whom they have plenty: they pluck off their breast
feathers when the geese are still alive, so that the poor bird walks around
as if in a décolleté. Love, and intense care for what will interest his
readership of one, directed Nabokov’s writing, and shaped it for the
future.” [ ] “Most people’s love letters would not be worth reading: love
leads to a narrowing of interest and focus. But Nabokov exercises his
precise gaze and begins to give Véra the writer he would turn into. When a
writer sits and turns what he can see into sentences of pure magic, the
world comes as if led by the nose:I looked out of the window and saw: a
red-haired house painter caught a mouse in his wheelbarrow and killed it
with the stroke of a brush, then he tossed it in a puddle. The puddle
reflected the dark-blue sky, quick black upsilons (reflections of swallows
flying high) and the knee of a squatting child, who was attentively studying
the little grey round corpse. I yelled at the painter — he didn’t get what
the matter was, took offence, began to swear ferociously. I changed and went
to tennis. Available from the Spectator Bookshop
192239%26productGroupId%3d> , £24, Tel: 08430 600033 This article first
appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated 27 September
2014 <http://www.spectator.co.uk/issues/27-september-2014/>


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