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Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (1966)

af Vladimir Nabokov

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3,126373,142 (4.19)156
Speak, Memory, first published in 1951 as Conclusive Evidence and then assiduously revised in 1966, is an elegant and rich evocation of Nabokov's life and times, even as it offers incisive insights into his major works, including Lolita, Pnin, Despair, The Gift, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, and The Luhzin Defense.… (mere)
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» Se også 156 omtaler

Engelsk (36)  Hollandsk (1)  Alle sprog (37)
Viser 1-5 af 37 (næste | vis alle)
Slow in spots, but where Nabakov engages you, he can be quite compelling and interesting. It's not necessary to know Russian history to read this, though some of the allusions will become a bit clearer if you do. I would recommend this. ( )
  EricCostello | Apr 21, 2021 |
When it is good, it is very, very, good; but when it is bad, it is boring. ( )
  TanteLeonie | Jan 28, 2021 |
This book has a long history: Nabokov published much of it as essays in the New Yorker in the late 1940s, but there were also some parts he had originally written in French before the war and later reworked. It first appeared as a book under the US title Conclusive evidence in 1951; as a result of that, relatives and others provided Nabokov with further information that allowed him to revise and expand it considerably when he translated it into Russian. He expanded the English version in a similar way, and in 1967 it reappeared in its present form under the title Speak, memory (which had also been the UK title of Conclusive evidence).

It is not so much a straightforward autobiography as a literary examination of his own reaction to his memories of growing up in a privileged family in Russia before the Revolution. Chapters are arranged thematically rather than chronologically: he talks in one place about the way his interest in butterflies and moths developed, in another about his nannies and tutors, in another about his parents and uncles and aunts, in another about travelling with his family, and so on. Along the way we hear about the family estate, about his father's political career (culminating in the liberal Kerensky government), about the girls he fell in love with, the cowboy stories he devoured so enthusiastically, the delights of the Nord Express, and much else. And, almost in passing, about how all this was broken up by the events of 1917, and how the family moved into exile first in the Crimea and then in the émigré world of Berlin and Paris.

Nabokov tries to make it clear to us that he doesn't hold a grudge against the Bolsheviks for depriving him of his property — his nostalgia is for childhood, which is lost for good whatever we do, not for land and houses and servants (which he has regained to a large extent in his new American life, thanks to Lolita). But he obviously does hold a grudge against the Bolsheviks for frustrating his father's dream of a Russian liberal democracy, and he clearly hates them for being ill-bred philistines at least as much as he despises their personal ambition and totalitarian abuses of human rights. He also shows his contempt for non-Russians who see only two sides to Russian politics: extreme reaction or Marxist-Leninism, and in many cases turn a blind eye to the abuses of Lenin and Stalin. But this isn't meant as a reasoned book on Russian politics, it's a personal memoir, and he's entitled to use it to set out personal views.

There are some very memorable, beautiful passages of description and recollection, but there's also a lot of arrogant, Humbert Humbert-ish teasing of the simple-minded American readers he clearly imagines as he's writing. Some of that is very funny, and we are obviously meant to see it as tongue in cheek, but there are other places where it comes across more like an aristocrat whipping a servant for not getting precisely the required degree of shine out of his riding boots. The first time you see an obscure scientific term used for something that has a perfectly good common name it strikes you as clever and amusing; by the fourth or fifth time it's getting a bit stale, and you're only about ten pages into the book... ( )
1 stem thorold | Nov 23, 2020 |
Another one to put on the fairly small pile of books that I quite like, but also find morally or intellectually repugnant (see also: Rilke). Nabokov writes well, of course, and has quite a way with scenes and so on. He is also unmistakably racist, routinely belittles people because of their social class, and then has the gall to swear that he doesn't hate the Bolsheviks because they stole his patrimony (he says this just after telling us that he'd inherited a few million and a country estate from a relative he didn't really know very well, so, you know, there was plenty to steal)--he hates them because they stole his childhood. That's right: not because of the murders. So concerned was Nabokov to insist that he wasn't a materialist (which he so obviously was), that he'll come up with sentimental garbage to explain his opposition, rather than make a political statement. This book might be the single easiest way to help someone become more sympathetic to Lenin; if this was the kind of person who 'suffered' under Lenin's reign (and a fortiori Stalin's), perhaps those pigs weren't so bad.

To wit: we're expected to swallow the idea that the family's servants were better off weeding the paths of the delightful family residence than they were cleaning the streets for the Soviet state. The country estate might have been more picturesque; it certainly was no more just, and at least cleaning streets does good for people who are repulsively over-wealthy.

Great prose, but. ( )
  stillatim | Oct 23, 2020 |
Justifiably the gold standard of modern memoir. Difficult, honest, and richly beautiful it is worth it for any of the thumbnail biographies of distant family members. ( )
  Eoin | Jun 3, 2019 |
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Nabokov, Vladimirprimær forfatteralle udgaverbekræftet
Boyd, BrianIntroduktionmedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Jaskari, JuhaniOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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The cradle rocks above the abyss and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness; altho the two two are identical twins, man as a rule views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for at some 4500 heartbeats an hour.
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A sense of security, of well-being, of summer warmth pervades my memory. That robust reality makes a ghost of the present. The mirror brims with brightness; a bumblebee has entered the room and bumps against the ceiling. Everything is as it should be, nothing will ever change, nobody will ever die.
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This is the 1966 "autobiography revisited". Please do not combine with the early autobiography published as Conclusive evidence.
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Speak, Memory, first published in 1951 as Conclusive Evidence and then assiduously revised in 1966, is an elegant and rich evocation of Nabokov's life and times, even as it offers incisive insights into his major works, including Lolita, Pnin, Despair, The Gift, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, and The Luhzin Defense.

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