SPEAK, MEMORY by Vladimir Nabokov

SPEAK, MEMORY

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A colored spiral in a small ball of glass, this is how I see my life," remarks Nabokov in an almost mock-Hegelian passage near the end of a rippling, vivid, ironically elegiac memoir, ranging "geographically from St. Petersburg to St. Nazaire ...covering thirty-seven years, from August 1903 to May 1940, with only a few sallies into later space-time." The original work was published in 1951, and the current edition is a revised or "revisited" one, including both new or revamped material, as well as some deletions. There is, for instance, no longer the eye-winking attribution of two lesser-known Nabokov novels to "Sirin," an emigre figure who is, of course, Nabokov himself, and who is still modestly dubbed the best of the young Russian "writers in exile." The reminiscences unwind in an engagingly random manner, held together by the author's fantastically assured and flexible tone, his exquisite sense of detail and prankish art, his blithely idiosyncratic opinions; the Russian Revolution is dismissed as "that trite deus ex machina." The lustrous family portraits are fondly drawn: Mother, Father, Uncle Ruka--cultured, liberal aristocrats, brave and eccentric, in the splendid setting of country estates, politics, sports, and literature. There are adolescent awakenings and European spas, a dreamy first love, a humorous and touching tribute to "Mademoiselle," Nabokov's favorite governess; then flight from the Bolsheviks, schooling at Cambridge, breadwinning in Paris and Berlin. A minor classic, one of the richest works of a master stylist.
Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1951
ISBN: 0375405534
Page count: 268pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1966




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