After four days reading Speak, Memory you start to fall into the style of the book, which is so praised by its admirers. Each chapter ends with a profound summary of a relationship with the time or character described in the preceding pages.
There is also a Proustian ability to paint wonderful pictures with words but what is also here is a self criticism that is deeper and a personal history that is far more contextualised than Proust. You are continually reminded of the year and his age, which is helpful because of the sheer amount going on in his life and around him in Russia.
Bullet points between pages 167 – 218
* Despite the date being given as 1914 the war feels a long way off as Nabokov discovers poetry and girls and develops a sensitive side that links into his appreciation of nature
* He falls in love with a girl Tamara who shares a magical summer with him in the woods and fields in his parent’s country home but when they get back into St Petersburg, with its complete lack of privacy the relationship starts to unravel
* Because his father is involved in liberal politics he remains behind after Lenin seizes power in St Petersburg hoping that the communists can be extracted from the revolution without losing the gains in freedom it has bought
* After the family go to the Crimea the world they once knew starts to fall apart. Even on the way down in the train the respect for their compartment has disappeared and red army soldiers try to break into it all the time and then of course the families money is gone so they are reliant on a few old jewels
* His father comes and stays with them but the sense of danger is so high that the men in the family patrol the house ready to fight of a challenge from Red Army soldiers until the Reds leave as the Germans come and then the Whites come to fight and set up their own government in the region, on which Nabokov’s father takes a position as minister of Justice
* After the Whites are defeated the family flees to Europe via Greece and Nabokov ends up at Cambridge University along with his brother. You really sense the wrench that leaving causes as he heads away from his homeland and all that he has known through his childhood
* He then talks about his brothers but the sense you get more clearly than anything else is of a family that had once been close geographically if not emotionally being spread across countries leading to the breakdown of relationships
* His time at Cambridge is looked back with mixed emotions because he never really settled in and even when he goes back years later to get a teaching job he struggles to fit in with the surroundings even then
I am keeping the last 19 pages to read on my way into work and will post the final segment of bullet points in the morning…