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Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
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Pale Fire (1962)

by Vladimir Nabokov

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,13170870 (4.29)1 / 268
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English (67)  French (1)  Hungarian (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (70)
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
http://www.bookcrossing.com/journal/6525675/

I can only say, what an odd book. Parts very funny but strangely sad and twisted by the end. I really enjoyed it but felt I was missing a fair amount.
  amyem58 | Jul 3, 2014 |
The Eccentric Professor Kinbote,(1)
Was a king, or perhaps he was not,(2)
He annotates Shade,(3)
but his meaning betrayed,(4)
Kin’s completely missing the plot.(5)

(1) A professor at Wordsmith College, neighbor and friend to recently deceased lauded Poet John Shade. He is the protagonist among a cast of amusing characters in this non-linear metafictional work.
(2) The story of the flight of the King of Zembla, a distant northern land in Europe, from his home and pursuit by an assassin is told amongst the other threads. It is unclear what Kinbote is that king in disguise, or just a Zemblan scholar.
(3) Allegedly Kinbote is annotating John Shade’s poem about his life and the suicide of his daughter, but the notes are very distant from the text.
(4) In his commentary Kinbote prefers to tell the story of his interactions with Shade, and attempts to read in his influence on the poem’s creation. He had been trying to convince Shade to write a poem about the flight of the King of Zembla.
(5) Kinbote is both the most unreliable of narrators, on account of possibly being nuts, and is unable to actually discuss the poem in his annotations. It’s amazing, read Pale Fire. ( )
  Achromatic | Feb 16, 2014 |
Gets bonus points for a creative structure that didn't feel gimmicky. Probably requires another reading. ( )
  thatotter | Feb 6, 2014 |
"What did you think?" Oh, where to begin! A great read. When I first opened the book and saw the format, I thought, "Oh god, this is gonna be tedious" but the thing grabs you. ( )
  allisonneke | Dec 17, 2013 |
This is an amazing book, a feat of style and form and, just because of that, no the easiest read. yet, it is rewarding and interesting. Not exactly satisfying, mind you, but I find Nabokov never is. I could only read it in the mornings. Before bed, my brain would go into overdrive if i attempted more than 10 pages. Yet, there is enjoyment in this book, there are poetic moments, divine details and wonderful revelations. The introduction - poem - commentary - index format is difficult to pull without looking gimmicky, but Nabokov does it with grace and elegance. Shade, Kinbote and Gradus will stay with me for a long time. ( )
  femme_letale | Oct 6, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
If the introduction and notes are eccentric, the index is of a similar quality ... Kinbote's index is a symptom of his insanity.
added by KayCliff | editNew Writing 9, Robert Irwin (Dec 12, 2010)
 
The integration of events described in the index into the text of Pale fire clearly qualifies this index as an example of indexes as fiction. The complex trail of cross-references by which the whole book may be alternatively read makes it possible also to regard this novel as an example of fiction as
index.
added by KayCliff | editThe Indexer, Hazel K. Bell (Aug 5, 1997)
 
In fact, “Pale Fire” is a curiosity into which it is agreeable to dip rather than a book which can be read straight through with pleasure.
 

» Add other authors (28 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nabokov, Vladimirprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kinbote, CharlesForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rorty, RichardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verstegen, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
This reminds me of the ludicrous account he gave Mr. Langton, of the despicable state of a young gentleman of good family. "Sir, when I heard of him last, he was running about town shooting cats." And then in a sort of kindly reverie, he bethought himself of his own favorite cat, and said, "But, Hodge shan't be shot: no, no, Hodge shall not be shot."

--James Boswell, the Life of Samuel Johnson
Dedication
To Véra
First words
I was the shadow of the waxwing slain / By the false azure in the windowpane.
Pale Fire, a poem in heroic couplets, of nine hundred ninety-nine lines, divided into four cantos, was composed by John Francis Shade (born July 5, 1898, died July 21, 1959) during the last twenty days of his life, at his residence in New Wye, Appalachia, U.S.A.
Quotations
I have no desire to twist and batter an unambiguous apparatus criticus into the monstrous semblance of a novel.
No lips would share the lipstick of her smoke.
Shadows, the, a regicidal organization which commissioned Gradus (q.v.) to assassinate the self-banished king; its leader’s terrible name cannot be mentioned, even in the Index to the obscure work of a scholar; his maternal grandfather, a well-known and very courageous master builder, was hired by Thurgus the Turgid, around 1885, to make certain repairs in his quarters, and soon after that perished, poisoned in the royal kitchens, under mysterious circumstances, together with his three young apprentices whose pretty first names Yan, Yonny, and Angeling, are preserved in a ballad still to be heard in some of our wilder valleys.
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Information from the French Common Knowledge. Edit to localize it to the English one.
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Haiku summary
The curse of the verse!
(Note: this refers to Zembla.)
So: king, or madman?

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679723420, Paperback)

Like Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire is a masterpiece that imprisons us inside the mazelike head of a mad émigré. Yet Pale Fire is more outrageously hilarious, and its narrative convolutions make the earlier book seem as straightforward as a fairy tale. Here's the plot--listen carefully! John Shade is a homebody poet in New Wye, U.S.A. He writes a 999-line poem about his life, and what may lie beyond death. This novel (and seldom has the word seemed so woefully inadequate) consists of both that poem and an extensive commentary on it by the poet's crazy neighbor, Charles Kinbote.

According to this deranged annotator, he had urged Shade to write about his own homeland--the northern kingdom of Zembla. It soon becomes clear that this fabulous locale may well be a figment of Kinbote's colorfully cracked, prismatic imagination. Meanwhile, he manages to twist the poem into an account of Zembla's King Charles--whom he believes himself to be--and the monarch's eventual assassination by the revolutionary Jakob Gradus.

In the course of this dizzying narrative, shots are indeed fired. But it's Shade who takes the hit, enabling Kinbote to steal the dead poet's manuscript and set about annotating it. Is that perfectly clear? By now it should be obvious that Pale Fire is not only a whodunit but a who-wrote-it. There isn't, of course, a single solution. But Nabokov's best biographer, Brian Boyd, has come up with an ingenious suggestion: he argues that Shade is actually guiding Kinbote's mad hand from beyond the grave, nudging him into completing what he'd intended to be a 1,000-line poem. Read this magical, melancholic mystery and see if you agree. --Tim Appelo

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:13 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Nabokov's parody, half poem and half commentary on the poem, deals with the escapades of the deposed king of Zemala in a New England college town.

» see all 5 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

Two editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141185260, 0141197242

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