Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada

the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

A Revolver to Carry at Night

Monika Zgustova

general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase A Revolver to Carry at Night

Title: A Revolver to Carry at Night
Author: Monika Zgustova
Genre: Novel
Written: 2019 (Eng. 2024)
Length: 150 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: A Revolver to Carry at Night - US
Un revólver para salir de noche - US
A Revolver to Carry at Night - UK
A Revolver to Carry at Night - Canada
Un revólver para salir de noche - España
from: Bookshop.org (US)
  • Spanish title: Un revólver para salir de noche
  • Translated by Julie Jones

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

B : a lot of surface but too little depth in these glimpses of the Nabokovs' life together

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       A Revolver to Carry at Night is a four-part novel revisiting four periods in the lives of Vladimir and Véra Nabokov. It opens in Montreux, in 1977, imagining their life there, and Vladimir's final days and thoughts -- not least him reflecting on events in Cannes in 1937, "when he had had to decide between Véra and Irina, Irina Guadanini-Kokoshkin, with whom he had just spent a wonderful spring in Paris". The second part of the novel then jumps back to Cannes in 1937 -- though the outcome of the real-life affair, the fact that Vladimir chose Véra, is of course known to the reader.
       The third part of the novel is set in the United States, in 1964, the Nabokovs now well-off, after the resounding success of Lolita -- with son Dmitri noting then how his mother: "had developed a taste for luxury, which had not remotely interest her in the past". Here, too, however, there are also reflections on the past -- including more detail on how Véra and Vladimir had become a couple. Zgustová describes how Véra bided her time and prepared (learning his verses by heart, for example), until finally they attended the same dance, where: "Véra followed him like his shadow, waiting for the right moment" . Then -- still: "disguised in her wolf mask" (!) -- she pounced. She made an impression, but still had to work at it afterwards, as:

he did not respond to Véra's letters. She had to write three times, no, four, to get a single response from him. But she had made her plan, and she was determined to win him over.
       The final part is set in 1990, not long before the widowed Véra then also passed away. Here she is translating Pale Fire -- an undertaking that gave her: "a sense of communion with her dead husband" --, but also reflecting on the past, and Vladimir's other works, including The Original of Laura, which he had begged her to destroy but which she still remains undecided about, as well as Pnin, with its reminders of Irina ("Irina is embodied in the character of Liza Bogolepov").
       Repeatedly, Zgustová ties Nabokov's fiction to his life. The 1924 story 'Bachmann', for example, features brilliant pianist Bachmann and the woman devoted to him, Madame Perov, with Zgustová suggesting Nabokov: "predicted the nature of his relationship with his wife in this character". It mirrors their life together for the next fifty years:
Art does not lie. In the story, he had presented a great artist and a woman whom the artist did not love. He did not love her, but he needed her desperately for his art. To lve and to need: There is a great difference between the two.
       Zgustová also suggests that the basis for aspects of Lolita -- and Nabokov's repeated interest in the "theme of the seduction of children" -- can be found in Vladimir having been molested by his uncle when he was a young boy:
     Fifty years later, Vladimir described Uncle Vasili's games and his own feelings as a young victim in Lolita. He had to write the novel to throw light on what he had experienced in his childhood.
       This kind of incidental psychologizing is a bit much for the slim novel and indeed throughout Zgustová summarizes and attributes to biography all too easily. Closely based on fact -- a Bibliography at the end of the novel helpfully lists her sources ... -- A Revolver to Carry at Night skims across the life of the couple, connecting odds and ends -- often fittingly enough, but only limitedly delving in; it remains feeling too much like a sketch.
       The choice of title is revealed, one more illustration of how determined and hard-nosed Véra could be. So also Dmitri at one point explains why his parents live in Switzerland, even though Vladimir felt so much more comfortable in the United States:
Keeping him in Montreux is her vendetta against him. She's a Mafia boss."
     "And a little Napoleon."
     "De Gaulle !"
     "Bismarck !"
     "Mussolini ! Did you know that she always carries a Browning ?"
       Alas, Zgustová does not follow Chekhov's dictum, and no one gets shot (or even shot at) ......
       Sticking closely to known facts and anecdotage -- yes, Véra was said to carry a gun in her purse --, A Revolver to Carry at Night does offer an interesting glimpse into the lives of these two figures -- though it is only somewhat limitedly a 'scenes of a marriage'-type novel, as both Vladimir and Véra are largely presented individually. Zgustová does show Véra's supporting (and also controlling) role, as well as how determined she was to get (and keep) her man, but the full sense of mutual reliance is only suggested rather than really convincingly portrayed.
       A quick overview of the Nabokovs-as-couple, A Revolver to Carry at Night is engaging enough, but falls a bit short -- not least, in its shortness -- of fully exploring the relationship between Vladimir and Véra, and the way in which Vladimir relied on his wife.

- M.A.Orthofer, 28 March 2024

- Return to top of the page -


A Revolver to Carry at Night: Reviews: Vladimir Nabokov: Books by Vladimir Nabokov under review: Books about Vladimir Nabokov under review: Monika Zgustová: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Czech-born, Spanish-writing author Monika Zgustová was born in 1957.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2024 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links