Published on March 28th, 2012 | by Thompson0
Nabokov’s Speak, Memory an Ideal, Proustian Autobiography
“As far back as I remember myself (with interest, with amusement, seldom with admiration or disgust), I have been subject to mild hallucinations. Some are aural, others are optical, and by none have I profited much” (33).
In reading Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory, it takes little more than the opening paragraph to realize why it’s an ideal, Proustian representation of autobiography. Nabokov constantly uses place to spark his memory, and in doing so creates a bit of a memory theater of his own. He even uses the word Proustian to describe the illnesses suffered by his Uncle Ruka. It’s apparent that Proust was an influence on Nabokov, but referring to Proust is one thing – writing like Proust is another. Nabokov’s immense imagery channels Proust, and I find it difficult to overlook the images Nabokov is capable of creating in my mind.
“How small the cosmos (a kangaroo’s pouch would hold it), how paltry and puny in comparison to human consciousness, to a single individual recollection, and its expression in words! I may be inordinately fond of my earliest impressions, but then I have reason to be grateful to them. They led the way to a veritable Eden of visual and tactile sensations” (24).
Proust and Nabokov have more in common than mere writing styles, though. Navokov too was consumed by memory all the time, which he describes as hereditary. “The act of vividly recalling a patch of the past is something that I seem to have been performing with the utmost zest all my life, and I have reason to believe that this almost pathological keenness of the retrospective faculty is a hereditary trait” (75). This constant battle with remembering the past seems to ease as Nabokov puts himself in the place rather than the time, and I’m sure as I continue Speak, Memory place will continue to serve as the foundation for remembrance.