At the end of Chapter 11 part 4 of Speak, Memory, how does Nabokov portray himself?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This section of Nabokov's powerful autobiography is one where he is engaging all of his faculties in pursuit of writing a poem. So dedicated and absorbed is he in this endeavour that he actually seems to phase out of awareness of "the physical plane" as he refers to it, finding himself walking one minute in one location and then suddenly becoming aware that this location has magically shifted the next time he becomes aware. Note how this sense of disrupted spatial awareness becomes even more intense the closer he gets to finishing the poem:

On that coach I lay prone, in a kind of reptilian freeze, one arm dangling, so that my knuckles loosely touched the floral figures of the carpet. When next I came out of that trance, the greenish flora was still there, my arm was still dangling, but now I was prostrate on the edge of a rickety wharf...

What is so interesting therefore about the way that Nabokov chooses to present himself is that he is a poet so committed and dedicated to his art that he has but limited awareness of the world around him and where he is, what he hears, sees and tastes. Nabokov thus chooses to describe himself as if he were a poet so focused on his craft that he becomes more a part of his imagination than the physical, real world in which he lives. The reader is left with an impression of him living more in the world of the imagination than in the physical world around him.

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