The Memoirist against History: Nabokov’s Speak, Memory as the (re)negotiation of a literary form at the intersection of personal experience and historical narrative
Nabokov’s Speak, Memory is a literary memoir that negotiates the relationship between history and personal experience by illuminating one end of a spectrum of authoritative effects that range from artifice to spontaneity. In using play to leverage and highlight the tension between the artifice of a work of literature and the spontaneity of personal expression (or sense making on an individual level,) and by implicating both reader and writer within that tension, it demonstrates how literary memoir can negotiate its relationship to its genre. There are thus two forms of negotiation at work in Speak, Memory, the one between artifice and spontaneity, the other between individual experience and historical narrative. In this way, by using play to invite the reader into the interpretative act, Nabokov emphasises the role of artifice in the autobiographical project, and, by doing so, stakes out a claim for the literary autobiographical writer in the face of historical narrative.
Copyright (c) 2019 Michael Sala
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