Why is Speak, Memory important to read?

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This book is important to read because in it, Nabokov explores the limits of time and memory and seeks to transcend them. In a way, he tries to defy mortality by remembering a time before his birth and defying time's power through the creative act of re-remembering and looking at different elements of his life in different ways and forms. Note what Nabokov says about time in the following quote:

I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip.

Nabokov in this text therefore tries to "trip up" his metaphorical visitors in the "magic carpet" of the form of time that he presents, as he focuses on certain parts of his life's journey from the vantage poitn of different sections of his life that subverts the normal presentation of biography as being linear and chronological. This book is important to read therefore because of the very different handling of time and life that it offers and the way that it seeks to push the boundaries of time, subverting it and seeking to control it rather than being controlled.

Of course, apart from this, the book is also fascinating in charting the life of one of the most influential literary thinkers and novelists in the 20th century and how so much of his life was spent fleeing for protection and safety. The text follows the life of the author as he first flees Russia to America and then to Switzerland. The notion of freedom is also considered in the way that Nabokov is encouraged to pursue freedom in his life through his parents. All in all, this makes a highly interesting read.

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Why is Speak, Memory an important book to read? 

I would say that one of the reasons why Nabokov's work is so important rests in its title.  As time passes in our lives and we wish to give voice to our identities in the past, we call to the heavens and to ourselves:  "Speak, memory."  The call of "Speak, Memory" is a desire to use our memory to recapture times that have passed. They will no longer be experienced, so there is a desire to reclaim them.  The problem is that our memory of those events changes as time passes.  Nabokov himself speaks to this:  "The following of such thematic designs through one's life should be, I think, the true purpose of autobiography."

It is here in which Nabokov's work is so important.  His work demonstrates how voice from the present about the past is evident. As Nabokov calls out for his "Memory" to "Speak," it becomes clear that this voice is seen through a modern prism.  The work is so important because it represents how our past is our own, and yet it belongs to the present tense.  We use the present tense to filter our own past through thematic designs.  Nabokov's work demonstrates this importance. Memory is never absolute and beyond question.  It is constantly filtered through the lens of the present tense, reflecting that the way in which our "memory speaks" is ongoing and ever changing.  Nabokov's memoirs are important because it reflects how important it is to have our memory speak.  It is a state of being that might change with time because we change with time. In being able to illuminate this philosophical reality, Nabokov's work is significantly important.

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