A Small Reaction to the Nabokovs’ Letters

When I read the “Letters to Vera” post on Brain Pickings, the words thoroughly picked me up and stuffed me into the stunned box before I finished the end of the post. I immediately followed the link to Amazon to view the price of the book. I’ve placed it on my wishlist.

Regardless of how long I will have to wait to read more of these amazing letters, the excerpts Popova chose for her review of the collection punched a one-two through my ever-increasing cynicism (should I blame cynicism on age or relationship status?).

Most of all I want you to be happy, and it seems to me that I could give you that happiness — a sunny, simple happiness — and not an altogether common one…

Vera and Nabokov’s letters read like a fictional romance, not an actual married couple over years of their lives. The hearts are still passionate. The words not just flowery, have depth. From previous readings on the couple, I know they had their own issues, controversies including affairs, etc. And as Popova writes:

On the one hand, the half-century span of Vladimir’s love letters to Véra do follow the neurobiological progression of love, moving from the passionate attraction that defines the beginning of a romance to the deep, calmer attachment of longtime love. On the other, however, they suggest that the very act of writing love letters can help sustain the excitement and passion of a long-term relationship, countering what Stendhal called the “crystallization” that leads to disenchantment.

But I read these letters from Nabokov to Vera, and I can’t help but get the sense of deep love in his heart. How can love like that, even if only in words to one another, last a lifetime? How can such a deep belief in one’s own emotions and desire for another last? I don’t understand it. I have never seen it.

But it’s beautiful.


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