opinions & ViewsnA Form of Magic,nA Game of Enchantment and DeceptionnVladimir Nabokov: Speak, Memory:nAn Autobiography Revisited; G.P.nPutnam’s Sons; New York, 1966.nby Otto J. ScottnHi L is Swiss Boverness, Mademoiselle,narrived when Nabokov was six andnhis brother five, in 1905—“a year ofnstrikes, riots and police-inspired massacres.”nHe describes her night arrival atnthe station, where she was met by Zaharnthe coachman, whose felt boots crunchednthe snow while he handles her luggagenand helps her into the sleigh.n”Mademoiselle gives a backwardnjerk of her torso as the heavy sleigh isnwrenched out of its world of steel,nfur, flesh, to enter a frictionless mediumnwhere it skims along a spectralnroad that it seems barely to touch . . .nleaving Mademoiselle to be swallowednup by what she will later allude to,nwith awe and gusto, as le steppe.nThere, in the limitless gloom, thenchangeable twinkle of remote villagenlights seems to her to be the yellowneyes of wolves . . . And let me notnleave out the moon^for surely therenmust be a moon, the full, incrediblynclear disc that goes so well with Russiannlusty frosts. So there it comes,nsteering out of a flock of small dapplednclouds . . . and, as it sails higher, itnglazes the runner tracks left on thenroad, where every sparkling lump ofnsnow is emphasized by a swollennshadow.n”Very lovely, very lonesome. Butnwhat am, I doing in this stereoscopicndreamland? How did I get there?nSomehow the two sleighs have slippednMr. Scott is an author of biographies ofnfames 1 and Robespierre.n6nChronicles of Culturenaway, leaving behind a passportlessnspy standing on the blue-white roadnin bis New England snowboots andnstormcoat. The vibration in my earsnis no longer their receding bells, butnonly my old blood singing. All is still,nspellbound, enthralled by the moon,nfancy’s rear-vision mirror. The snownis real, though, and as 1 bend to it andnscoop up a handful, sixty years crumblento frost-dust between my fingers.”nThat essentially poetic vision, whichnevokes both the memory and the grief ofnexile, also exhibits and reveals the artist.nBut it took Nabokov a long time to makenthat revelation deliberate. In the originalnversion, which appeared in Mesur, innParis, in 1936, the reminder that thenartist was standing on a highway in NewnEngland did not appear. It was only whennhe reviewed the piece for Speak, Memorynthat it was revised; improved. Retouched,nso to speak, by the painter before he partednwith it forever—and then in such a mannernas to move the viewer not only besidenhim, but inside him.nA subtle and revealing nature of thenremembrance of things past pervadesnNabokov’s sentences. Such reorganizationnof memory had once served Proustnin dissecting reality. In Nabokov’s pages,nthe reconstruction of what’s still perceptible,nas well as what is not, turns into annallusive revisionism. By the magic ofndelicate musing and ironic sighs, bynelongating the perspectives of both tendernessnand skepticism, Nabokov transformsnTalleyrand’s famed words aboutnthe sweetness of life before revolutionsninto moral splendor.nOnly a great poet can cast that sort ofnspell. Nabokov, in the vignettes thatncomprise his autobiography, did it twice.nWhen these episodic recollections firstnappeared in various popular magazinesnto glitter against the drab backdrop ofnnnthe late Forties and early Fifties, theynseemed mere entertainments—thoughnof a very high order. Each reflects anvanished world, with its heritage andntreasures, its once-rooted security andnits shining future. But, subtly reworkednand strung together in the order thatnNabokov had, all along, held secretly innview, they do far more than provide anportrait of the artist in retrospection. Fornwithin their completed circle, these pearlednmemories hold, forever fast, valuesnthat lesser men seek to destroy.nINabokov was an aristocrat, born tongreat wealth, surrounded by servants andncomforts, and spent his first twenty yearsnin the warm approval of liberal parents.nIt would be easy to assume that his valuesnwere those of the aristocracy. But thentruth was that his values were those of anworld that contained an aristocracy—andnthat world was one in which all ourngrandparents lived and moved.nNabokov’s father was a famous liberalnjurist, who defended Jews and promotednparliamentary democracy; his motherndoted on games and her children. Shenenjoyed playing draw poker—a gamenlearned from the diplomatic colony,nwhich the Russian upper class played innFrench. Brelan was three of a kind and anflush was coleur; jokers were “ominivicarious.”nThe entire Nabokov familynplayed ardent tennis; in the summersnwent on mushroom hunts. As a boynNabokov devoured the lurid westernnnovels of Captain Mayne Reid—in English—whilenhis European counterpartsnread their equivalents.nThe family had a large country estatensouth of St. Petersburg and a townhousenat 45_Morskaya Street, and fifty servants.nThe Nabokovs were not particularlynreligious: Nabokov’s mother held bothnthe liturgy and the clergy of the Greekn