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Nabokov Studies, 2 (1995), 173-90. CHRISTIAN MORARU (Bloomington, IN, U.S.A.; TIME, WRITING, AND ECSTASY IN SPEAK, MEMORY: DRAMATIZING THE PROUSTIAN PROJECT By no means a neglected work, Vladimir Nabokov's "revisited autobiography " still invites a critical reconstruction of the subtle reply it gives to its fundamental, albeit seldom "unmasked" alter-ego,2 Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past. Trying to respond to this invitation, my essay will approach Nabokov's Speak, Memory as a complex "mirroring" of Recherche. More precisely, I shall focus on Nabokov's memoir as a "reading machine" that subtly engages Prousf s view of "aesthetic" memory , reprocessing the interplay of time, timelessness, and writing at work throughout Remembrance and particularly thematized in its last part, Time Regained. Surveying his past, composing his autobiography, Nabokov simultaneously reads and at times even rewrites the exemplary modern attempt to deal with one's past in literary terms, Proust's novel. A substantial and captivating cultural component pervades, I would argue, Nabokovian recollection. Reading Proust is part of the very process of writing, memory reanimating the narrator's childhood against the background of the Proustian vision of aesthetic time. The autobiographical reference, we shall notice, presupposes the intertextual detour, an original, provocative exchange with Proust's model of time as an aesthetic category. I shall be surveying the key moments of such a conversation in Speak, Memory, in1 . I am deeply indebted to Matei Calinescu, Hinca Johnston, Herbert Marks, lohn Strong-Mediatore, and an anonymous reader for their challenging observations on this essay. 2. Nabokov scholarship has traditionally singled out the Proustian elements in the early Nabokov as well as in novels like Ada, and in his fiction as well as in his memoirs, literary criticism, interviews, etc. See, for example, Philip Sicker, "Practicing Nostalgia: Time and Memory in Nabokov's Early Russian Fiction," Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature, 11, No. 2 (Spring 1987), 253-270. Recognizable themes such as memory (both voluntary and involuntary ), duration, the blending of multiple temporal strata, "the magical sense of time" (Sicker), the structure of the ego, sensation, the recollection and invention of reality, and love and loss have recurrently surfaced in Nabokov criticism. As far as I am concerned, I am trying to reconstruct Speak, Memory's response to a characteristically Proustian enterprise : the aesthetic processing of time. 174 Nabokov Studies sisting on those when Nabokov takes up the Proustian economy of time and writing in order to flesh out his own dialectic of temporality and aesthetics . My analysis will be therefore listening for that "double voice" of discourse, which constitutes, to use Bakhtin's terminology, the memoir's dialogic substance: the Proustian timbre and themes, translated, assimilated into and even "ventriloquized" by the Nabokovian narrator's. The Proustian Model. Outside Time: Aesthetics and Ecstatics Proust's reflections on the "considerable difficulties" arising from the temporality3 of the work of art, trials that his narrator is "ready to undertake " (Remembrance, vol. 3, p. 903)/ herald many of Nabokov's considerations in Speak, Memory. As in the tatter's memoir, concrete impressions usher in a transcendent horizon. The intensely debated Proustian Platonism also breaks forth in Nabokov's pursuit of the supersensible by way of experiencing palpable realities. The "ontological leap" involves, to borrow Hegel's concept, a sort of writeriy Aufhebung,5 a very concrete and individual process. Writing's primum movens is contingent time, both 3.1 wish to stress here the basic distinction between temporality and chronology. (For an extensive treatment of this issue, among many others, see Gareth H. Steel, Chronology and Time in À Ia recherche du temps perdu, Genève: Librairie Droz, 1979). The "architecture of time" in Proust and Nabokov, to use Richard Macksey's formula from "The Architecture of Time: Dialectics and Structure" (in Proust A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by R. N. Girard [Englewood Ciffs, N.).: 1972, pp. 104-21]), or, in other words, the narrative implications of time in teme of chronological distortions are not of prime rele vanee to my approach. I am dealing with writing insofar as it plays on another decisive opposition , that between empiric and absolute ("aesthetic") time. A whole series of distinct "temporal patterns" have...


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