- Also check our best rated Biography reviews
Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (Everyman's Library Classics) Hardcover – 29 Mar 1999
|New from||Used from|
- Choose from over 13,000 locations across the UK
- Prime members get unlimited deliveries at no additional cost
- Find your preferred location and add it to your address book
- Dispatch to this address when you check out
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
"[Nabokov] has fleshed the bare bones of historical data with hilarious anecdotes and with a felicity of style that makes "Speak, Memory" a constant pleasure to read. Confirmed Nabokovians will relish the further clues and references to his fictional works that shine like nuggets in the silver stream of his prose." --"Harper's""Scintillating...One finds here amazing glimpses into the life of a world that has vanished forever." --"New York Times"
From the Inside Flap
From one of the 20th century's great writers comes one of the finest autobiographies of our time. Speak, Memory was first published by Vladimir Nabokov in 1951 as Conclusive Evidence and then assiduously revised and republished in 1966. The Everyman's Library edition includes, for the first time, the previously unpublished "Chapter 16"--the most significant unpublished piece of writing by the master, newly released by the Nabokov estate--which provided an extraordinary insight into Speak, Memory.
Nabokov's memoir is a moving account of a loving, civilized family, of adolescent awakenings, flight from Bolshevik terror, education in England, and emigre life in Paris and Berlin. The Nabokovs were eccentric, liberal aristocrats, who lived a life immersed in politics and literature on splendid country estates until their world was swept away by the Russian revolution when the author was eighteen years old. Speak, Memory vividly evokes a vanished past in the inimitable prose of Nabokov at his best. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
Twelve of the fifteen chapters deal with Nabokov's boyhood in pre-revolutionary Russia; the remaining three describe his life as an émigré in Cambridge, Berlin and Paris in the inter-war years. Nabokov provides an exception to the rule proposed by P.G. Wodehouse that a happy childhood is a handicap for a writer: his early years appear to have been not merely happy, but idyllic, with their exotic properties of duels, troikas in the snow and peasants bathing naked in forest glades. His aristocratic, even dandyish youth is a world away from the brutal upbringing portrayed in Maxim Gorky's memoir of his childhood in 1870s Russia.
Nabokov's style was the envy of other writers:
'What startling beauty of phrase, twists of thought, depths of sorrow, bursts of wit! This was a rainbow prose that made most others look flat and gray.' (John Updike, More Matter, p.287)
His language is certainly strikingly original: he constantly finds an unexpected angle from which to approach experience. The account is not a conventional, chronological narrative; rather the material is organised thematically, with chapters devoted to enthusiasms such as butterflies and chess. Sometimes one wonders if the intellectuality and elaboration of the language gets in the way; I think I found Gorky's memoir more moving, although clearly Nabokov exceeds Gorky in terms of literary skill.
I listened to the recording of Speak, Memory made by Stefan Rudnicki and published by Brillance Audio in 2010. Rudnicki reads well, although the book is so linguistically elaborate - many words will need to be looked up in a dictionary by the average reader - that it is probably better read than listened to.
However, this is certainly not a memoir filled with sorrow or bitterness. Instead, the author recreates his privileged childhood, with its recurring pattern of winter in St Petersburg, the spring and summer spent at the family’s country estate and the autumn in foreign resorts. We read of the many tutors and governesses who came and went, the author and his brother’s many escapades (including boarding a ferry and leaving their nanny wringing her hands on the quay as her charges floated away and an attempted elopement with a French playmate). There is the horror of hearing his father might have died in a duel, the joy of butterfly collecting - always a passion throughout his life – his early attempts at writing poetry and his final leaving of Russia after the revolution.
Mostly, though, what we get are little snippets – beautifully written – of a world that has long gone, but which can see through the eyes of our narrator. Places, people, a way of life long since vanished, are recreated. You can almost feel the cold on carriage drives through the snow, or imagine walks in the countryside, so vivid are the descriptions. As such, it is almost not what is written, but how it is written, that is important here. The eye for detail; of the memory of a room, books on a shelf, or how it felt to wake in the morning, is what makes the book come alive. I think it is an important memoir and one which paints a portrait of a certain era and way of life which the author obviously missed, but recalled with love.
Would you like to see more reviews about this item?
Most recent customer reviews