There is a sentence in Nabokov's "Speak Memory," which I find hard to
understand. I tried to read it in a Portuguese translation but its
meaning remains a puzzle to me. Simon Karlinski ( in note 5 to
letter 123, about Nabokov brother Sergei, in VN-Wilson Letters,p. 174) wrote:
"There is a moving tribute to him in Speak Memory (pp.257-258)
which concludes: "It is one of those lives that hopelessly
claim a belated something - compassion, understanding, no matter what - which
the mere recognition of such a want can neither replace nor redeem."
Nabokov was hospitalized with food-poisoning, at Mt."Aubrey"
Hospital, in June 1944. His brother Sergei died of untreated
food-poisoning on January10, 1945.
Nabokov writes about Sergei to Wilson in letter 123: "This news gave me a horrible shock because Sergei was the last
person I could imagine being arrested ( for "Anglo-Saxon sympathies"): he was a
harmless, indolent, pathetic person who spent his life vaguely shuttling between
the Quartier Latin and a castle in Austria which he shared with a friend"
and in Nabokov's chapter ( SM) he describes his childhood with
Sergei and their separation in Paris.
Can anyone offer an interpretation about what the lines in his
"...which the mere recognition of such a want ( a belated compassion or understanding?) can
neither replace or redeem"?
Vladimir Nabokov, in SM, writes that he found it "inordinately hard to speak about my other brother. That twisted
quest for Sebastian Knight (1940), with its gloriettes and self-mate
combinations, is really nothing in comparison to the task I balked in the first
version of this memoir and am faced with now... his boyhood and mine seldom
mingled." From his descriptions of Sergei's interest in music ("went to concerts with our father, and spen hours on end playing
snatches of operas, on an upstairs piano well within ear-shot... he went to my
fahter's former gimnasiya...") I was reminded of Luzhin's
piano-playing in Nabokov's other novel, The Defense but it seems that
Luzhin's father's interest in his musical progress is the only element in common
bt. Alexander and Sergei.
Is there any article which explores VN's relationship to Sergei,
independently of what has already been linked to TRLSK, which may be
helpful to understand more about V. and S.?