Speak, Memory – post V

The book ends with yet another war looming and his wife and son entering the picture. It is a cruel irony that for a man who lived through the Russian revolution to finally find yourself exiled in Berlin with the rise of Hitler, which of course means moving again and uprooting the small roots that have been put down.

Bullet points between pages 218 – 237

* As a result of the revolution there is a significant émigré literary community and Nabokov looks back on his relationships, mostly strained, with those poets and novelists and exposes the bitterness they feel at being exiled

* There are numerous bits that put a smile on your face and one in particular is when he leaves a café with an émigré writer who has very kindly said to him that he will die in dreadful pain in complete isolation

“Gingerly opening his overcoat, he began tugging at something under his armpit. I came to his assistance and together we finally dragged out of his sleeve my long woollen scarf which the girl had stuffed into the wrong coat. The thing came out inch by inch; it was like unwrapping a mummy and we kept slowly revolving around each other in the process, to the ribald amusement of three sidewalk whores. Then, when the operation was over, we walked on without a word to a street corner where we shook hands and separated.” Pg 220

* He talks about the years he spent in exile dreaming of chess solutions and the whole section is a great metaphor for the fact so many exiles expected to return to Russia at some point when the Reds were checkmated but of course that didn’t happen

* He then tries hard to remember the environment his child spent his first years in moving from Berlin to Paris and discusses the problems with memory then the book closes with the family about to board a boat to New York

A full review will appear tomorrow…

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