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You have to consult biographies like Brian Boyd's for the full, remarkable facts of Nabokov's life. A millionaire at 17 (his sister danced in Diaghilev gowns with Fabergé gems at the Winter Palace), repeatedly exiled, forced to bust out of one chrysalis after another into new lives, the writer retained only the infinite wealth of his memory and art. This book is a mosaic shaped by a mind so metaphorical that, as a babe, Nabokov perceived letters as colors, the alphabet as a rainbow.
The loss of his father is at Speak, Memory's core. This memoir is worth owning for a single paragraph alone, about the sight of Nabokov senior being tossed aloft by grateful peasants he'd been generous to--a dozen or so with locked arms flinging him up in a hip-hip-hooray ritual.
There, for an instant, the figure of my father in his wind-rippled white summer suit would be displayed, gloriously sprawled in midair.... Thrice, to the mighty heave-ho of his invisible tossers, he would fly up ... and then there he would be, on his last and loftiest flight, reclining, as if for good, against the cobalt blue of the summer noon, like one of those paradisiac personages who comfortably soar, with such a wealth of folds in their garments, on the vaulted ceiling of a church while below, one by one, the wax tapers in mortal hands light up to make a swarm of minute flames in the mist of incense, and the priest chants of eternal repose, and funeral lilies conceal the face of whoever lies there, among the swimming lights, in the open coffin.Nabokov recaptures the paradise of his youth, and acquits himself of the coldness of which some accuse him. He plays literary games, but he plays for keeps. --Tim Appelo
I've found this book hard to read due to its style and formidable vocabulary. I am now reading it for the second time, something that I've never done before. Read morePublished 3 days ago by Hon Cheung Yu
Unconventional but deeply revealing memoir of the author's early years. Sonorous prose of astonishing beauty.Published 1 month ago by Baxter
I mainly knew Nabokov through Lolita, a brilliant book, but came to realize that he was a much broader writer than just that book. Read morePublished 1 month ago by JVF
I loved his writing, the way he uses words and phrases. I had no idea about his privileged early life. He is truly uniquePublished 1 month ago by barbara lidsky
Dense prose - not always interesting - hard to follow and focus onPublished 1 month ago by missydog
Nabokov is a brilliant writer but spends too much time trying to prove it. When he writes from the heart, and the work flows, it is a joy to read. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Paul Davey
The book is a difficult read for anyone who wants to understand every word used by the famously well educated writer. I gave up on this after two chapters. Read morePublished 2 months ago by edward rosenthal
Oh the beauty of Nabokov's writing. Even his autobiography can be written in a way that floats us into the ether of contemplation, only to set us back down full of beautiful... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amory Ross
This is a beautifully evocative memoir, consisting of the personal recollections of Nabakov, recalling his childhood in Imperial Russia . Read morePublished 3 months ago by S Riaz