Nabokov’s fictional retrospective first-person narratives rely on the “perfect-memory” convention, which is, however, sometimes laid bare or even subverted. This convention makes no inroads in Nabokov’s factorgraphic narratives, such as Speak, Memory and “Abram Gannibal.” This paper discusses the narrative techniques that replace the “perfect-memory” convention in the “childhood-adolescence-youth” part of Speak, Memory, and the way these techniques relate to Nabokov’s view of the workings of memory, in the context of some his literary and philosophical precursors.
An updated translation of ch. 10, “Discourse of Lent: Kafka's 'A Hunger Artist' and Shalamov's 'The Artist of the Spade,'" of L. Toker Towards the Ethics of Form in Fiction: Narratives of Cultural Remission (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2010).
“Varlam Shalamov's Sketches of the Criminal World.” In Born to Be Criminal: The Discourse on Criminality and the Practice of Punishment in Late Imperial Russia and Early Soviet Union, 233-45. Ed. Riccardo Nicolosi and Anne Hartmann. Bielefeld: Transcript, 2017.