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Speak, Memory : An Autobiography Revisited ()


Brothers Judd Top 100 of the 20th Century: Non-Fiction

I honestly don't consider myself competent to judge whether Nabokov is one of the century's greatest writers.  Like many of his contemporaries, much of his work is so obscure as to defy my comprehension, but I do very much like what I understand in Pale Fire (see Orrin's review) and Lolita (see Orrin's review), both of which made the Modern Library Top 100 Novels of the Century, and, of course, to read him is to be exposed to an English language and a prose style that one little knew existed.  So I am more than willing to acknowledge that he was a singular and immense talent.  It is altogether fitting then that his memoirs too should be unique.

For the most part, Nabokov's mission here is literally to let his memory speak.  In so doing he recreates late czarist Russia in loving, painstaking detail.  While to the best of my knowledge Nabokov was never particularly identified with the anti-Communist émigré movement, this book is its own kind of indictment of the USSR.  The case it lays out is not the political or the economic one but the historical and cultural one.  As he says:

    My old (since 1917) quarrel with the Soviet dictatorship is wholly unrelated to any question of
    property.  My contempt for the émigré who "hates the Reds" because they "stole" his money and
    land is complete.  The nostalgia I have been cherishing all these years is a hypertrophied sense of
    lost childhood, not sorrow for lost banknotes.

    And finally: I reserve for myself the right to yearn after an ecological niche:

    ...Beneath the sky
    Of my America to sigh
    For one locality in Russia.

The crimes of the commissars are without number and most are far greater than this, but this richly textured, impossibly specific and deeply moving memoir so brilliantly transports the reader to what seems to have been a wonderful and altogether innocent existence that to that list of crimes must be added the Bolsheviks utter destruction of this world. Even if you've never liked any of his other books, do yourself a favor and read this one.  Even the passages that defy comprehension are beautiful.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (A)

  

Websites:

Vladimir Nabokov Links:
    -Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)(kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA: Your search: "vladimir nabokov"
   -Life & Times : Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) (NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of The Silence of the Sea, by Hilaire Belloc (Vladimir Nabokov, NY Times, 1941)
    -REVIEW: of Nausea, by Jean-Paul Sartre (Vladimir Nabokov, NY Times, 1949)
    -REVIEW: of AUDOBON'S BUTTERFLIES, MOTHS AND OTHER STUDIES. Compiled and Edited by Alice Ford  (Vladimir Nabokov, NY Times, 1952)
    -REVIEW: Vladimir Nabokov: Rowe's Symbols, NY Review of Books
        Nabokov's Deceptive World by William Woodin Rowe
    -ESSAY: Nabokov's Butterflies (Vladimir Nabokov, The Atlantic)
    -ESSAY: Vladimir Nabokov: On Translating Pushkin POUNDING THE CLAVICHORD, NY Review of Books
    -ESSAY: Vladimir Nabokov: TRANSLATION, NY Review of Books
    -ESSAY: Vladimir Nabokov: LUNAR LINES, NY Review of Books
    -STORY: "Cloud, Castle, Lake" (Nabokov, The Atlantic, June 1941)
    -STORY: The Aurelian (Vladimir Nabokov, The Atlantic, June 1941)
    -STORY: Vladimir Nabokov. The Assistant Producer (1943)
    -STORY: Vladimir Nabokov. A Forgotten Poet (1944)
    -STORY: Signs and Symbols  Vladimir Nabokov
    -STORIES: Vladimir Nabokov: Two by Nabokov, NY Review of Books
    -ARTICLE: Nonfiction: Nabokov Theory on Butterfly Evolution Is Vindicated (CARL ZIMMER, 1/25/11, NY Times)
    -Literary Research Guide: Vladimir Nabokov (1899 - 1977)
    -FEATURED AUTHOR: Celebrating Nabokov's Centenary (The New York Times)
    -OBIT: Vladimir Nabokov, Author of 'Lolita' and 'Ada,' Is Dead  (ALDEN WHITMAN, NY Times)
    -OBIT: Vladimir Nabokov: 1899-1977 (R.Z. SHEPPARD, TIME)
    -100 Years Vladimir  Nabokov (Random House)
    -Zembla
    -the international vladimir nabokov society
    -The Nabokronology: a guide to Vladimir Nabokov's life and works
    -{ w a x w i n g } the vladimir nabokov appreciation site
    -Ardis  Picture Archives:  Nabokov
    -Soapbox Collage: Vladimir Nabokov
    -Nabokov Under Glass: The Nabokov Archive in the Berg Collection at the New York Public Library
    -CNN In-Depth Specials on Nabokov: "Beyond Lolita: Rediscovering Nabokov on his birth centennial"
    -Vladimir Nabokov
    -ESSAY: The gay Nabokov:  The novelist never could face the secret that cost his brother his  life (LEV GROSSMAN, Salon)
    -ESSAY: Vladimir Nabokov and   William Shakespeare (Philip F Howerton, Jr., Winter 1990 Shakespeare Oxford Society Newsletter)
    -ESSAY: The Nabokov gambit :  They failed with Lolita (twice) and now they've failed with The Luzhin Defence. Why do the novels of the great prose sorcerer Vladimir Nabokov always defeat the film-makers? (Steven Poole, Books Unlimited)
    -REVIEW: of Speak, Memory Evidence of the Hunt, Clues of a Past (ELIOT FREMONT-SMITH, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: D.J. Enright: Nabokov's Way, NY Review of Books
        The Waltz Invention by Vladimir Nabokov
        The Eye by Vladimir Nabakov
        Despair by Vladimir Nabokov
        Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited by Vladimir Nabokov
        Escape Into Aesthetics: The Art of Vladimir Nabokov by Page Stegner
    -REVIEW: The Reality of the  Past: Book review of  'Speak, Memory' (JAN. 20, 1967, TIME)
    -REVIEW: of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov  The Tragedy of Man Driven by Desire (ELIZABETH JANEWAY, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Lolita (Orville Prescott, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of  Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov  (Charles Rolo, The Atlantic, SEPTEMBER  1958)
    -REVIEW: To the End of Night: Book review of 'Lolita' (SEPT. 1, 1958, TIME)
    -ESSAY: The Lolita Case (Time, 1958)
    -REVIEW: of Pale Fire  In an Elaborate Spoof, Nabokov Takes Us to the Never-Never Land of Zembla (GEORGE CLOYNE,  Sunday, May 27, 1962, NY Times)
    -REVIEW: of Pale Fire (Christopher Keep, Tim McLaughlin)
    -REVIEW: V.S. Pritchett: The Magician's Trick, NY Review of Books
        The Enchanter by Vladimir Nabokov and translated by Dmitri Nabokov
    -REVIEW: V.S. Pritchett: The Supreme Fairy Tale, NY Review of Books
        Lectures on Don Quixote by Vladimir Nabokov
    -REVIEW: John Bayley: The Novelist as Pedagogue, NY Review of Books
        Lectures on Russian Literature by Vladimir Nabokov
    -REVIEW: Robert M. Adams: Nabokov's Show, NY Review of Books
        Lectures on Literature: British, French, and German Writers by Vladimir Nabokov
    -REVIEW:  V.S. Pritchett: Nabokov's Touch, NY Review of Books
        Look at the Harlequins! by Vladimir Nabokov
        Strong Opinions by Vladimir Nabokov
    -REVIEW: Michael Wood: Tender Trousers, NY Review of Books
        Transparent Things by Vladimir Nabokov
    -REVIEW:  V.S. Pritchett: Genesis, NY Review of Books
        Glory by Vladimir Nabokov, translated by Dimitri Nabokov
        The Scorpion God by William Golding
    -REVIEW: Jack Richardson: It's About Time, NY Review of Books
        Mary by Vladimir Nabokov and translated by Michael Glenny
    -REVIEW:  Matthew Hodgart: Happy Families, NY Review of Books
        ADA or Ardor: A Family Chronicle by Vladimir Nabokov
    -REVIEW: William H. Gass: Mirror, Mirror, NY Review of Books
        King, Queen, Knave by Vladimir Nabokov
        Nabokov: The Man and His Work edited by L.S. Dembo
        Keys to Lolita by Carl R. Proffer
    -REVIEW: Edmund Wilson: The Strange Case of Pushkin and Nabokov, NY Review of Books
        Eugene Onegin A Novel in Verse by Alexandr Pushkin, translated by Vladimir Nabokov
    -RESPONSE:  Vladimir Nabokov: LETTERS: THE STRANGE CASE OF NABOKOV AND
WILSON, NY Review of Books
    -REVIEW: Harry Levin: A Contest Between Conjurors, NY Review of Books
        The Nabokov-Wilson Letters: Correspondence Between Vladimir Nabokov and Edmund Wilson, 1940-1971
    -REVIEW: Robert M. Adams: Nabokov's Game, NY Review of Books
        The Defense by Vladimir Nabokov
    -REVIEW: of Nabokov's Congeries (Anthony  Burgess, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov (1995,  John Updike, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW:  Robert M. Adams: The Wizard of Lake Cayuga, NY Review of Books
            Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years by Brian Boyd
    -REVIEW: V.S. Pritchett: Nabokov's Game, NY Review of Books
        Nabokov: His Life in Part by Andrew Field
    -REVIEW: Denis Donoghue: Absolute Pitch
        Nabokov: His Life in Art: A Critical Narrative by Andrew Field
    -REVIEW: of V E r  a  ( Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov )   BY STACY SCHIFF (MARY ELIZABETH WILLIAMS, Salon)
    -REVIEW: of Vera by Stacy Schiff Behind the Mask of Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov (Katherine Knorr, International Herald Tribune)
    -REVIEW: of NABOKOV'S BLUES: The Scientific Odyssey of a  Literary Genius By Kurt Johnson and Steve CoatesThe Ardent Collector  (Donald Smith, Washington Post Book World)
    -ESSAY: Freeing "Pale Fire" From Pale Fire: The next big Nabokov controversy. (Ron Rosenbaum, July 23, 2010, Slate)
    -ESSAY: The Year of 'Lolita'  (Brian Boyd, NY Times Book Review)
    -ESSAY: "Lolita," My Mother-in-Law, the Marquis de Sade, and Larry Flynt: Reflections on art, pornography, and censorship, after the taboos have all been smashed (Norman Podhoretz, Commentary)
    -ESSAY:  PERSONAL BEST: Lolita   (MARY ELIZABETH WILLIAMS, Salon)
    -ESSAY: PERSONAL BEST: Lolita (AMY TAN, Salon)
    -ESSAY: Vladimir Nabokov: A personal centenary salute (John Yewell, MetroActive)
    -ESSAY: F.W. Dupee: Nabokov: the Prose and Poetry of It All, NY Review of Books

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