This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain.  It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love.  A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern-to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.

–Vladimir Nabokov

The last few weeks I have passed many a quiet hour in the company of a brilliant and fascinating dead man.

While I sat in a chair swinging and sipping a cup of steaming tea, he shared detailed memories of his happy childhood.  Near the warm glow of a fire, he taught me new words (cacology, fop, vicissitudes, incunabula, and impecunious) and secret things about butterflies. I was saddened by his tales of war and exile, even as he kept these in the periphery of a vividly lived life. He showed me sunsets in Berlin, gardens in St. Petersburg, and seashores along the western coast of France.  Last night as I turned the last page of Nabokov’s memoir, it felt a lot like losing a friend.  What a beautiful mind.

Speak, Memory; An Autobiography Revisited is the literary equivalent of a truffle.  I savored it in small bites, never wanting it to end.

 

 

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