Vladimir Nabokov Writes to His Wife

15COVER-sfSpanMartin Amis at the New York Times:

One of Nabokov’s most striking peculiarities was his near-pathological good cheer — he himself found it “indecent.” Young writers tend to cherish their sensitivity, and thus their alienation, but the only source of angst Nabokov admitted to was “the impossibility of assimilating, swallowing, all the beauty in the world.” Having a husband who was so brimmingly full of fun might have involved a certain strain; still, the fact that Véra was not similarly blessed is just a reminder of the planetary norm. Indeed, their first long separation came in the spring and summer of 1926, when she decamped to a series of sanitariums in the Schwarzwald in the far southwest, suffering from weight loss, anxiety and depression.

Véra was gone for seven weeks, and Vladimir wrote to her every day. ­Spanning more than a hundred pages, the interlude is one of the summits in the mountain range of this book. He endeavored not only to raise her spirits (with puzzles, riddles, crosswords, which she almost invariably solved) but also to love her back to health — with punctual transfusions of his buoyant worship. Here one finds oneself submitting to the weird compulsion of the quotidian, because he tells her everything: about his writing, his tutoring, his tennis, his regular romps and swims in the Grunewald (for her the Black Forest, for him the Green); he tells her what he is reading, what he is eating (all his meals are itemized), what he is dreaming, even what he is wearing. Also, very casually, almost disdainfully (as befits the teenage millionaire he once was), he keeps noticing that they don’t seem to have any money.

more here.