13 September 2008

Vera: Mrs Vladimir Nabokov

Russian literature is rich in examples of famous writers whose wives have acted as unpaid secretaries and copyists. Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevski, and (I suspect) Alexander Solzhenistyn. But Vera Slonim, who married Vladimir Nabokov, took the tradition to unprecedented extremes. They met as Russian exiles in Berlin in 1923 - both dispossessed of fortunes - and she gave up the rest of her life to acting as Nabokov's secretary, typist, business manager, translator, research assistant, chauffeur, and even standing in for him as a lecturer. His output as a writer was large - but as an author still given to writing in pencil on small index cards, then handing them over to her to copytype on an old portable, it's inconceivable that he would have produced half as much without her ... Read more >>

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