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Speak, Memory : An Autobiography Revisited - Nabokov Vladimir

Speak, Memory

An Autobiography Revisited

Paperback

Published: December 2000
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'Speak, memory' said Vladimir Nabokov. And immediately a host of enchanting recollections came flooding back to him; of his comfortable childhood and adolescence, of his rich, liberal-minded father, his beautiful mother, an army of relations and faily hangers-on and of grand old houses in St Petersburg and the surrounding countryside in pre-revolutionary Russia. Young love, butterflies, tutors and a multitude of other themes thread together to weave an autobiography which is itself a work of art.

This Penguin Modern Classic edition contains an appendix, 'Chapter sixteen', a pseudo-review written by Nabokov in 1950 but only now published for the first time in paperback.

About the Author

Vladimir Nabokov was born in 1899 in St Petersburg. He wrote his first literary works in Russian, but rose to international prominence as a masterly prose stylist for the novels he composed in English, most famously, Lolita. Between 1923 and 1940 he published novels, short stories, plays, poems and translations in the Russian language and established himself as one of the most outstanding Russian emigre writers. He died in 1977.

"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. (Kirkus Reviews)

Vladimir Nabokov

Born in St. Petersburg in 1899, Vladimir Nabokov was the eldest son of an aristocratic and culturally educated family. Russian, French and English were spoken in the Nabokov household and as a child, Nabokov read authors such as Poe, Melville and Flaubert. Following the Bolshevik revolution, the Nabokovs moved to London before settling in Berlin. Nabokov stayed in England to study at Trinity College Cambridge where he completed his studies. He was married to his wife Vera in 1925. In the first twenty years of writing, Nabokov's writings were in Russian and it was not until later that his works were translated; many by his son Dimitri . In 1940 he moved with his wife and son to America where he lectured at Wellesley College from 1941 to 1948 before filling the post of professor of Russian literature at Cornell until 1959. His first novel written in English was The Real Life of Sebastian Knight written in 1941. Nabokov is arguably most famous for his 1955 novel Lolita. As well as writing novels, Nabokov wrote works of non-fiction; notably on Nikolai Gogol (1944) and Eugene Onegin (1964).

In an interview with Alfred Appel, Nabokov stated that 'the writer's art is his real passport and not his nationality' and that he was 'an American writer who has once been a Russian.' This reflects Nabokov as a writer of great linguistic flexibility and suggests that the early influence of foreign literature perpetuated throughout his life, giving him the tools to portray ideas in different languages. The ideas are the speakers in his work, not the language. This ability to disorganise space is also reflected in Nabokov's own compositional style where he purports in his early years as a writer to have constructed paragraphs in his mind to be re-written later and, later on in his career, to write sections on note cards to be later re-arranged and re-written; the final work appearing as a sequence of mental spaces materialised on paper.

Writers such as Martin Amis and Brian Boyd have positioned Nabokov as one of the greatest writers of the century. Amis has commented that 'to read him in full flight is to experience stimulation that is at once intellectual, imaginative and aesthetic, the nearest thing to pure sensual pleasure that prose can offer.'

Visit Vladimir Nabokov's Booktopia Author Page


ISBN: 9780141183220
ISBN-10: 0141183225
Series: Penguin Classics Ser.
Audience: General
Format: Paperback
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 288
Published: December 2000
Dimensions (cm): 19.8 x 12.1  x 2.6
Weight (kg): 0.26
Edition Number: 1