Vera (Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov)

Aikhenvald saw Véra as a fearless guide to Vladimir on “the poetic path.” She was on every count his champion. The wife of another émigré writer phrased it differently: “Everyone in the Russian community knew who and what you meant when you said ‘Verochka.’ It meant a boxer who went into the fight and hit and hit.

Blind passion was one thing, all-knowing intimacy a rarer commodity.

Dimitri had driven his mother back to Montreux from the Lausanne hospital at dusk on July 2, in his blue Ferrari, on the last day of his father's life. Véra had sat silently for a few minutes and then uttered the one desperate line Dimitri ever heard escape her lips, "Let's rent an airplane and crash.

Evsei Slonim would have seen himself as a member of the intelligentsia, a classless class whose features Nabokov described as""the spirit of self-sacrifice, intense participation in political causes or political thought, intense sympathy for the underdog of any nationality, fanatical integrity, tragic inability to sink to compromise, true spirit of international responsibility.

He was universally charming, as only a writer in pursuit of a publisher can be.

He wrote Véra sheepishly: “Something has happened (only don’t be angry). I can’t remember (for God’s sake, don’t be angry!) I can’t remember (promise that you won’t be angry), I can’t remember your telephone number.” He knew it had a seven in it, but the rest had entirely escaped him.

Nabokov complained he was afflicted with total recall, an affliction of which he could be miraculously cured by the presence of a biographer.

Never had he sounded so much like one of his characters, brought down by his passion, unable to escape his own private abyss, heartrendingly separated from his own self-image

She did not believe Fate as painstaking as her husband; she was more inclined to take matters into her own hands. She had ample reason for doing so. For a Jew in Russia to be a fatalist was tantamount to inviting disaster. Nabokov trusted in a thematic design which could not have looked quite so dazzling, so sure-handed, to someone who was in the habit of gingerly tiptoeing one step ahead of destiny.

They were inculcated with a firm sense of noblesse oblige, as with a respect for hierarchy; the Slonim girls knew well how to decode a social situation, and what they could rightfully expect from one. In part these seemed to be survival tactics for living in an uncertain time.

Véra assumed her married name almost as a stage name; rarely has matrimony so much represented a profession. It was one of the ironies of the life that – born at a time and place where women could and did lay claim to all kinds of ambitions – she should elevate the role of wife to a high art. […] Traditionally, a man changes his name and braces himself for fame; a woman changes hers and passes into oblivion. This was not to be Véra’s case, although she did gather her married name around her like a cloak, which she occasionally opened to startling effect. She would never be forced to make a woman’s historic choice between love and work. Nor would Verochka, as Vladimir called her, squander any of her professional training, though as it happened her husband would be the direct (and sole) beneficiary of that expertise.