Speak Memory: An Autobiography Revisited

Speak Memory: An Autobiography Revisited - Vladimir Nabokov, Stefan Rudnicki The thing that makes a good story are characters we care about placed in incredible moments. The problem with so many biographies and autobiographies is that, in order to dutifully encompass a lifetime of experiences, the writer takes a wide-angle lens of events without ever allowing the reader an opportunity to share in the small, intimate details that make such lives wonderful. I get the sense that Vladimir Nabokov understands this dilemma completely, and has therefore used a rather interesting organizational structure in order to illuminate these special moments of his life. He seems to remember things with such amazing clarity, even after decades of separation, that I at first suspected that where memory failed to recollect the facts, he filled in the details with fiction! But after listening to this literary genius expound on his family history, his early loves, and his beloved collection of butterflies and moths, I decided that (1) Nabokov has a remarkable mind quite able to remember such things, and (2) there's nothing very wrong with a bit of fiction sewn into the cloth. I love that he even recalls the exact moment of early childhood when he attained consciousness and self-awareness! And the exact natural droplet that inspired his first poem. And the name of the little dog who accompanied his French playmate at the beach. It's these beautiful, small, sacred images, along with Nabokov's masterly prose, that make this a really good read. I'll admit not being too keen on the early chapters, particularly the family history (with the author's arrogant aristocratic upbringing weighing heavily on us mere plebians). But once he starts talking about butterflies and moths, the Nabokov haughtiness subsided and my enjoyment of the story took over.