From one of the 20th century's great writers comes one of the finest autobiographies of our time. Speak, Memory, first published in 1951 as Conclusive Evidence and then assiduously revised in 1966, is an elegant and rich evocation of Nabokov’s life and times, even as it offers incisive insights into his major works, including Lolita, Pnin, Despair, The Gift, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, and The Luhzin Defense.
One of the 20th century’s master prose stylists, Vladimir Nabokov was born in St. Petersburg in 1899. He studied French and Russian literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, then lived in Berlin and Paris, where he launched a brilliant literary career. In 1940 he moved to the United States, and achieved renown as a novelist, poet, critic, and translator. He taught literature at Wellesley, Stanford, Cornell, and Harvard. In 1961 he moved to Montreux, Switzerland, where he died in 1977.
This audiobook pairs two classic voices the distinctive turns of phrase of seminal Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov and the equally recognizable baritone of prolific narrator Stefan Rudnicki. Speak Memory, a book of autobiographical essays first collected in 1951, has been hailed as one of the best works of nonfiction in the 20th-century. The tight connection between masterful prose and richly contemplative voice work assures that nothing in this fascinating self-treatment is lost upon the listener.
Nabokov spends little time discussing his writing, but his creative processes are spectacularly evident as he examines his own life from the history of his parents up through his immigration to the United States in 1940. Rudnicki captures all the little excitements of boyhood, from building forts to the first summertime crush, and hobbies of chess and butterflies that would become Nabokov's lifelong obsessions. On the run first from the czar and then from revolutionary Russian politics, Nabokov led a very international young life that parallels Rudnicki's own travels, making the accents particularly on point. Rudnicki's Polish heritage affords him the slightly drawn out Slavic vowels, and he displays an impressive command of the author's several languages English, Russian, French, and even a bit of German.
What emerges is a nuanced portrait of an exceptional and unique figure in literary history whose powers of delicate perception are thankfully matched by Rudnicki's precise and vibrant interpretation. Rendered in a charismatic style deeply befitting a man as charming as Nabokov, there is a lot to love in this audiobook. Even those who have already long treasured the text will find this a worthwhile listen. One cannot say that it sounds like Nabokov doing the reading, but if the author had a choice in the matter, surely Stefan Rudnicki delivers the resonant voice that Nabokov would have chosen for his audio avatar. Megan Volpert
"Beguiling and superbly produced, this bittersweet rendition will appeal to lovers of Nabokov and those experiencing their first taste." (
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