Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0021168, Thu, 13 Jan 2011 20:18:20 -0200

Re: SIGHTING--Smithsonian Magazine
James Twiggs sends: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/The-Trouble-With-Autobiography.html
Arts & Culture: The Trouble With Autobiography by Paul Theroux bringing a caption underneath his photograph informing that "Autobiographies invariably distory, insists author Paul Theroux, at his home in Hawaii"

JM:A very enjoyable reading, brought to the list with a Nab-sighting, sent by Jim Twiggs. Right beneath the photograph of Theroux there's a typo ("distory") that creates an interesting compression (distory/distopia/distorted history?)...
Although Theroux mentions many European writers, and not only Americans, he makes no reference to an author whose copious memoirs are noteworthy in connection to memoirs in general, and to Nabokov in particular, considering Van's fictional autobiography in "Ada, or Ardor" with his various referals to the French Romantics and to René Chateaubriand.*
I dare to imagine that Nabokov would have enjoyed the experience of reading aloud the various chapters of "Speak,Memory" to a a sophisticated audience, as was the case of Chateaubriand's and MMe Recamier's salon.

* - A summary from wikipedia: Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe - literally "Memoirs from Beyond the Grave" - is an autobiography in 42 volumes by François-René de Chateaubriand, published posthumously in 1848. Although the work shares characteristics with earlier French "memoirs" (like the Memoirs of Saint-Simon), the Mémoires d'Outre-Tombe are also inspired by the Confessions of Rousseau; in addition to providing a record of political and historical events, Chateaubriand includes details of his private life and his personal aspirations. The work abounds in instances of the poetic prose at which Chateaubriand excelled. On the other hand, the melancholy of the autobiography helped establish Chateaubriand as the idol of the young French Romantics;...After fragmented public readings of his work in salons, in 1836 Chateaubriand yielded the rights to his work to a society that published it until his death, paying him accordingly. Having obtained this economic stability, he completed the work with a fourth set of volumes. In 1841 he wrote an ample conclusion. Chateaubriand had originally intended to have the work published at least fifty years after his death, but his financial troubles forced him, in his words, "to mortgage his tomb."

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