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.
Whereas the killing of the elites, whether as part of genocide, as a bid for enslavement of a community, or as an expression of a social ressentiment, dates back to ancient times, it is owing to the atrocities of the twentieth century that histories of elitocide assembled the critical mass for the concept to emerge. This paper is devoted to literary reflections of elitocide, many of which can likewise be recognized as such only after the phenomenon itself has crystallized in collective memory. Literary treatments of the issue of elitocide includes works by Dostoevsky (The Devils), H. G. Wells (The Time Machine), and Nabokov (Bend Sinister), but my main example is the theme of the destruction of the most talented in the Gulag stories by Georgy Demidov.
Devoted to the ways in which Holocaust literature and Gulag literature provide contexts for each other, the book shows how the prominent features of one shed light on the veiled features and methods of the other. The narratives are discussed against the background of historical information about the Soviet and the Nazi regimes of repression. Writers at the center of this work include Varlam Shalamov, Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, and Ka-Tzetnik, and others including Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, Evgeniya Ginzburg, and Jorge Semprun illuminate the discussion. The twofold analysis concentrates on the narrative qualities of the works as well as on the ways in which each text documents the writer’s experience and on the ways in which fictionalized narrative can double as historical testimony. The analysis also comments on references to events that might have become obscure owing to the passage of time and the cultural diversity of readers.