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Speak, Memory
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Group Reads Archive > February 2015- Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov

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message 1: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 1002 comments Mod
Welcome to February's group read of Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov.


Nigeyb Thanks to whoever nominated Speak, Memory.

Speak, Memory is only the second book I have read by Vladimir Nabokov, the first was the amazing Lolita and, in common with that book, the writing is a delight.

Speak, Memory is a memoir that explores some of Nabokov's recollections. Each chapter is an independent entity and can be read on its own.

The bulk of the chapters recall Nabokov's childhood in an aristocratic family living in pre-revolutionary Saint Petersburg, and at a country estate near Siverskaya. The last three chapters recall his years in Cambridge, Berlin and Paris.

This short book is full of gorgeous writing. The content is less compelling, being a succession of mildly interesting musings and memories.

message 3: by Raymunda (new) - added it

Raymunda (raymundaj) I'm really looking forward to reading Nabokov again! I've also loved Lolita and I agree that Nabokov writing is amazing and beautiful

Susan | 774 comments Having re-read, "Speak, Memory," I found it even more beautiful the second time around. It is evocative of a vanished time. Normally, when you read a biography and say it is of a vanished time or place, it is because the subject of the book is very elderly, or has died. In this case, though, it is even more poignant, as Nabakov lost his family home and way of life because of the revolution. His disquiet of being unable to revisit his childhood haunts is obvious. I have found a review from the Wall Street Journal which I think is interesting and may interest anyone who has not yet decided whether to give this a try.

Pink I have this out form the library now, but probably won't start for another couple of weeks.

Susan | 774 comments

Here is another interesting article about "Speak, Memory."

Pink - I hope you enjoy the book when you start it. I know how difficult it is to fit all these books in!

message 7: by Katy (new) - added it

Katy (kathy_h) Waiting for my copy to arrive.

message 8: by Val (new) - rated it 5 stars

Val I enjoyed this book very much; he is a superb writer. It is fairly obvious that it was written as separate pieces and then the disparate elements brought together into a book, but I liked the way that meant his focus changed from chapter to chapter.

Nigeyb ^ Thanks Val. He is indeed a superb writer.

message 10: by Jan C (new) - added it

Jan C (woeisme) | 1525 comments I've just started.

Susan | 774 comments In some ways it reads like a misremembered - or idealised - view of a life. After all, Nabakov was, literally, relying on his memory. I just found the writing so beautiful that it did not really matter that the book was a little disjointed.

Barbara I really enjoyed this book with its powerful descriptions and wonderful language. Nabokov wrote such gorgeous lines as: "a certain intricate watermark whose unique design becomes visible when the lamp of art is made to shine through life's foolscap,” "the carefully wiped lenses of time," "letters from Tamara would still be coming...and weakly flap about like bewildered butterflies, set loose in an alien zone, at the wrong altitude, among an unfamiliar flora."

I was surprised to find that he was related to the composer Graun, Frederick the Great's Kapellmeister. Another relative had played a role in the abortive flight to Varennes, undertaken by Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. His father had been fined for writing about the Beylis case which became the source of Bernard Malamud's book, The Fixer. And of course, the story of the Russian revolution and the émigré experience of the 1920's formed a large part of his story.

I was intrigued by his interest in lepidoptery and chess, too. I hadn't realized that his butterfly collections were of museum standard.

Speak, Memory certainly brought to life a vanished world and has made me want to explore more of his writing.

Barbara Susan wrote: "In some ways it reads like a misremembered - or idealised - view of a life. After all, Nabakov was, literally, relying on his memory. I just found the writing so beautiful that it did not really..."

I agree, Susan. The stories were somewhat disjointed, and occasionally a bit dull, but the writing was really incredible. I'm very glad this book was selected by our group.

Nigeyb Beautifully eloquent Barbara, as ever.

message 15: by Erin (new) - rated it 5 stars

Erin | 39 comments I would like to add my thanks to whoever nominated this. I had only previously read Lolita, but his writing is so beautifully evocative I could keep reading this for a long time. There is a beautiful line about his pet daschaund sleeping with 'thickly padded dreams of half-chewed slippers' which perfectly described the dog snoozing at the end of my bed at that moment.

Susan | 774 comments Glad some of you enjoyed this - I do enjoy books set in pre-revolutionary Russia generally, but this is a lovely memoir.

message 17: by Pink (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink I've just started this, only read the introduction so far, but I'll try to get stuck into it today.

message 18: by Pink (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink I'm still working my way through this, quite slowly actually, but I'm nearly finished now. I'm finding that I really enjoy some parts and obviously appreciate Nabokov's writing, but some parts I'm finding a little boring and so I keep putting the book down. I have to admit that it isn't quite captivating me like I hoped it would. It seems my thoughts are similar to Nigeyb and Barbara with this one.

message 19: by Pink (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pink opinion remained largely the same.

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