As a biographer, you see things that the subject never saw. Nabokov writes to his mistress using the same words that he’d used fourteen years earlier to write to his future wife. I’m sure he never realized that. But I know that. Being able to locate the thematic consistencies throughout the life, to illuminate motivations and explain decisions as the person living the life could never have done, delights. It’s a marvelous intellectual puzzle, if one you by definition can’t solve for yourself.
Stacy Schiff is my hero this week.