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Non Fiction Book Club to Discuss "Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited" by Vladimir Nabokov - Thursday, March 6, @ 6:30PM


“The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness. Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with more calm than the one he is heading for (at some forty-five hundred heartbeats an hour).”

So begins, Speak Memory.

These past few weeks, with the Olympics in Sochi, the world’s focus has been squarely on Russia, so now might be a perfect time to acquaint yourself with the sparkling memoir from one of the best writers of the 20th century. I am of course talking about Russian emigre, Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak Memory: An Autobiography Revisited.

First published in 1951 as Conclusive Evidence and then revised and re-released in its current form by the author in 1966, Speak, Memory is a dazzling memoir of Nabokov’s childhood in imperial Russia and exile in Europe. With its balance of inner and outer worlds—of family chronicle and private fantasy, revolutions and butterflies, the games of childhood and the disasters of politics—the work that Nabokov called “a systematically correlated assemblage of personal recollections” is a haunting transmutation of life into art. “I have to make a rapid inventory of the universe…I have to have all space and all time participate in my emotion, in my mortal love,” he writes toward the end of the book, “so that the edge of its mortality is taken off, thus helping me to fight the utter degradation, ridicule, and horror of having developed an infinity of sensation and thoughts within a finite existence.”


About the Author:
Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977). Russian born writer grew up in imperial Russia, his father was a high ranking member of the Russian aristocracy who was killed shortly after Bolshevik revolution in 1918. Having already fled Russia and Germany, Nabokov became a refugee once more in 1940, when he was forced to leave France for the United States. He taught at Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell and after having written nine books in Russian began composing in English. While Nabokov was in America he wrote what are arguably some of his greatest works including, Bend Sinister (1947), Lolita (1955), Pnin (1957), Pale Fire (1962), and Ada: Or Ardor (1969) as well as the translation of his earlier Russian novels into English. He died in Montreux Switzerland in 1977.