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Pale Fire (1962)

by Vladimir Nabokov

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,7001331,092 (4.23)1 / 347
In Pale Fire Nabokov offers a cornucopia of deceptive pleasures: a 999-line poem by the reclusive genius John Shade; an adoring foreword and commentary by Shade's self-styled Boswell, Dr. Charles Kinbote; a darkly comic novel of suspense, literary idolatry and one-upmanship, and political intrigue.
  1. 10
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    jscape2000: A narcissist reveals himself by the contortions he makes to self-justify the way he sees himself and the world with the way the world sees him.
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    Trust Exercise by Susan Choi (beyondthefourthwall)
    beyondthefourthwall: Choi follows in Nabokov's footsteps here with some gutsy, unflinching, open-ended metafiction. In both cases - trying to avoid spoilers here - there is a piece of writing, mysteriously incomplete, and much of the rest of the text is by someone who claims to have been a close friend of the author. But there are some pretty weird things going on slightly below the surface, and it's clear that some kind of big traumatic event has loomed over the whole thing. A considerable amount of room for interpretation ensues.… (more)
2021 (25)
Books (27)
Romans (42)
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 Nabokov!: Pale Fire and the Cold War4 unread / 4Meredy, October 2013

» See also 347 mentions

English (128)  Portuguese (1)  Spanish (1)  Hungarian (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  All languages (133)
Showing 1-5 of 128 (next | show all)
I read the thousand-line poem and began on the commentary ... and just got bored. So I read about 30% of the book, and I didn't care for it.
People with a better background in English, poetry or philosophy might find it fascinating & great. ( )
  RickGeissal | Aug 16, 2023 |
Previously 3 stars, now 4 stars. The first time I experienced this story was through an audio book, which in my opinion is a mistake. This is a very visual book and benefits greatly from reading it in it's textual form.

Previous review:
DNF after 3 chapters.

I find the concept of the book darkly hilarious, and really it is well executed, but my issue with it is that the commentator, Charles Kinbote, is so self absorbed and dreadfully dull that I just can't handle it from beginning to end.

My summary, from the few chapters I read:
The original conspiracy theory. Through incredibly obscure connections far-jumped conclusions, Charles Kinbote convinces himself that his late neighbor and stalkee's poetry manuscript, and even death, is all about him.

Charles is a paranoid, narcissistic megalomaniac. From poems about John's love for his wife to the death of their daughter, Charles interprets it all as being about himself. Charles is obsessed and infatuated with John to a worrying degree, but even at that, there is no one he loves more than himself. ( )
  eurydactyl | Jul 20, 2023 |
I just finished this and wanted to get down some of my thoughts before reading any criticism. There is a severe thunderstorm passing through and a strange blue light is flashing on my street and I thought I saw sparks jump from a neighboring rooftop.

I've been sick and bedridden all day which afforded me the time to read. This novel is meant to be a puzzle. Is Kinbote insane? Is Zembla real? What kind of literary graffiti has the narrator sprayed all over John Shade's poem? Where is Nabokov in all of this? Is he closer to the egomaniac "king" or the staid poet?

What I love about this is that this seems to be a highly self-conscious act of the writer and professor unpacking what these jobs, these roles mean. The poem "Pale Fire" is itself, moving and elegiac. The stanzas about Shade's daughter's suicide are heartrending. Of course, Kinbote is not interested in the Shades' family drama. ( )
  jonbrammer | Jul 1, 2023 |
Not light reading, but worth the effort! ( )
  CatherineB61 | May 31, 2023 |
Strange but captivating.

Took a while to figure out what was going on. Still some mysteries unsolved. Worth a little patience and careful reading. ( )
  PaulGodfread | Apr 23, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 128 (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 (64 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nabokov, Vladimirprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blumenfeld, RobertNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
義之, 富士川Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Drews, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gorham, JohnCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rorty, RichardIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verstegen, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vietor, MarcNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
慎一郎, 森Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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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
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 ninty-nine lines, dividen into four cantos, was composed by Francis John 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
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.
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.
I'm puzzled by the difference between / Two methods of composing. A, the kind / Which goes on solely in the poet's mind, / A testing of performing words, while he / Is soaping a third time one leg, and B, / The other kind, much more decorous, when / He's in his study wielding his pen.
Come and be worshiped, come and be caressed, My dark Vanessa, crimson-barred, my blest My Admirable butterfly! Explain. - It is *so* like the heart of a scholar in search of a fond name to pile a butterfly genus upon an Orphic divinity on top of the inevitable allusion to Vanhomrigh, Esther! In this connection a couple of lines from one of Swift's poems (which in these backwoods I cannot locate) have stuck in my memory: When, lo! *Vanessa* in her bloom / Advanced like *Atalanta*'s star.
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In Pale Fire Nabokov offers a cornucopia of deceptive pleasures: a 999-line poem by the reclusive genius John Shade; an adoring foreword and commentary by Shade's self-styled Boswell, Dr. Charles Kinbote; a darkly comic novel of suspense, literary idolatry and one-upmanship, and political intrigue.

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Book description
Haiku summary
The curse of the verse!
(Note: this refers to Zembla.)
So: king, or madman?

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141185260, 0141197242


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