- Publisher: PENGUIN CLASSICS
- Format: Paperback | 288 pages
- Dimensions: 128mm x 196mm x 22mm | 259g
- Publication date: 26 October 2000
- Publication City/Country: London
- ISBN 10: 0141183225
- ISBN 13: 9780141183220
- Sales rank: 20,568
'Speak, memory', said Vladimir Nabokov. And immediately there came flooding back to him a host of enchanting recollections - of his comfortable childhood and adolescence, of his rich, liberal-minded father, his beautiful mother, an army of relations and family 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.
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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.
"[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"
"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)