NABOKV-L post 0018626, Fri, 2 Oct 2009 15:05:28 -0300

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[NABOKOV-L] [QUERY: SPEAK MEMORY]
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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 "tribute" mean:
"...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.?


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