In Nabokov’s most brazenly colorful Russian novel, The Gift, Fyodor, the protagonist, contemplates writing “a practical handbook: How to Be Happy.” A bright filament has been woven. In many ways, The Gift itself is this book. It was the last novel Nabokov wrote in Russian before switching to English at the age of 42, with The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (he was fifty-seven when Lolita was first published in Paris). Yet it is not melancholic but incantatory. As Nabokov himself puts it in the foreword he later added to the version “Englished” by Dmitri Nabokov and Michael Scammell (with Nabokov’s assistance), The Gift’s heroine is not Zina, but Russian literature. A surge toward Pushkin! A shift to Gogol! And a transformation of Fyodor himself, as he composes his love poem dedicated to Zina … But more than anything—and the reason why I love this novel and would swap it in a second with the Gideon Bible in any hotel room great or small—is that it is a summation of the trickling magic of life. Not so much a love poem to Zina, in the end, as an ode to the happiness found in the most minute details of the world. To those moments rich and strange when, in the “glassy darkness,” emerge correlated patterns of light. When strands of thoughts, “intercrossing threads of confused sounds,” flashes of colors, sudden repetitions of words, and love itself become “but the reverse side of a magnificent fabric.” The fabric of supreme reality, where time is a dream, and sight the artist’s true gift to his reader.