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Pálido fuego

Pálido fuego

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Pálido fuego

valoraciones:
4/5 (12 valoraciones)
Longitud:
328 página
6 horas
Publicado:
Apr 18, 2006
ISBN:
9788433938763
Formato:
Libro

Descripción

Una obra maestra, originalísima, desconcertante y diabólicamente divertida, repleta de alambicada ironía y mortífero humor. 

Nos hallamos ante una obra maestra, un «tour de force», una novela originalísima, desconcertante y diabólicamente divertida, que figura entre las preferidas de su propio autor y en la que refulge, de forma inigualable, su alambicada ironía y su mortífero humor. "Pálido fuego" se presenta como la edición póstuma de un largo poema escrito por John Shade, gloria de las letras norteamericanas, poco antes de ser asesinado. En efecto, la novela consta del susodicho poema, más un prólogo, un voluminosísimo corpus de notas y un índice comentado del editor, el profesor Charles Kinbote. A través de sus prolijos y entrometidos comentarios sobre el poema, sobre su amistad con Shade los meses anteriores a su muerte, y sobre el lejano reino de Zembla, que tan precipitadamente tuvo que abandonar, Kinbote va trazando un hilarante autorretrato, en el que acaba por delatarse como un individuo intolerante y altivo, excéntrico y perverso, un auténtico y peligroso chiflado. En este sentido, podría decirse que "Pálido fuego" es también una novela de intriga, en la que al lector se le invita a tomar el papel de detective.

Publicado:
Apr 18, 2006
ISBN:
9788433938763
Formato:
Libro

Sobre el autor

Vladimir Nabokov (San Petersburgo, 1899-Montreux, 1977), uno de los más extraordinarios escritores del siglo XX, nació en el seno de una acomodada familia aristocrática. En 1919, a consecuencia de la Revolución Rusa, abandonó su país para siempre. Tras estudiar en Cambridge, se instaló en Berlín, donde empezó a publicar sus novelas en ruso con el seudónimo de V. Sirin. En 1937 se trasladó a París, y en 1940 a los Estados Unidos, donde fue profesor de literatura en varias universidades. En 1960, gracias al gran éxito comercial de Lolita, pudo abandonar la docencia, y poco después se trasladó a Montreux, donde residió, junto con su esposa Véra, hasta su muerte. En Anagrama se le ha dedicado una «Biblioteca Nabokov» que recoge una amplísima muestra de su talento narrativo. En «Compactos» se han publicado los siguientes títulos: Mashenka, Rey, Dama, Valet, La defensa, El ojo, Risa en la oscuridad, Desesperación, El hechicero, La verdadera vida de Sebastian Knight, Lolita, Pnin, Pálido fuego, Habla, memoria, Ada o el ardor, Invitado a una decapitación y Barra siniestra; La dádiva, Cosas transparentes, Una belleza rusa, El original de Laura y Gloria pueden encontrarse en «Panorama de narrativas», mientras que sus Cuentos completos están incluidos en la colección «Compendium». Opiniones contundentes, por su parte, ha aparecido en «Argumentos».


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Mejores citas

  • Se disculpó di- ciendo que no se sentía muy bien y siguió limpiando el hornillo de la pipa con la misma fero- cidad que si estuviera escarbando en mi corazón.

  • Las mariposas blancas se vuelven lavanda cuandoatraviesan su sombra, donde parece mecersedelicadamente el fantasma del columpio de mi hijita.

  • Un sol de goma convulso se ocultó.

  • Shade era su propia anulación.

Vista previa del libro

Pálido fuego - Vladimir Nabokov

Índice

PORTADA

PRÓLOGO

PÁLIDO FUEGO. POEMA EN CUATRO CANTOS

CANTO PRIMERO

CANTO SEGUNDO

CANTO TERCERO

CANTO CUARTO

ÍNDICE

NOTAS

CRÉDITOS

A Véra

Esto me recuerda el grotesco relato que le hizo al señor Langton del estado lamentable de un joven de buena familia. «Señor, lo último que he sabido de él es que andaba por la ciudad matando gatos a tiros.» Y entonces, en una especie de dulce fantaseo, pensó en su gato favorito y dijo: «Pero a Hodge no lo matarán, a Hodge no lo matarán.»

JAMES BOSWELL,

Vida de Samuel Johnson

PRÓLOGO

Pálido fuego, poema en pareados decasílabos, de novecientos noventa y nueve versos, divididos en cuatro cantos, fue escrito por John Francis Shade (nacido el 5 de julio de 1898, muerto el 21 de julio de 1959) durante los últimos veinte días de su vida, en su residencia de New Wye, Appalachia, EE. UU. El manuscrito, casi todo copia en limpio de la cual el texto que sigue es fiel reproducción, consiste en ochenta fichas de tamaño mediano; en cada una de ellas Shade reservó la línea superior rosada para los encabezamientos (número del canto, fecha) y utilizó las catorce líneas azul claro para trazar con una pluma aguzada y una letra minúscula, pulcra y notablemente clara, el texto de su poema, saltándose una línea para indicar un doble espacio y utilizando una ficha nueva cada vez que empezaba un nuevo canto.

El breve Canto Primero (166 versos) con todos sus divertidos pájaros y parhelios, ocupa trece fichas. El Canto Segundo, preferido de usted, y ese chocante tour de force que es el Canto Tercero, tienen la misma longitud (334 versos) y abarcan veintisiete fichas cada uno. El Canto Cuarto es de largo idéntico al Primero y ocupa también trece fichas, de las cuales las cuatro últimas, empleadas el día de su muerte, no son una copia en limpio, sino un borrador corregido.

Hombre metódico, John Shade solía copiar todos los días a medianoche su producción de versos terminados, pero aunque volviera a copiarlos más tarde, como sospecho que hizo algunas veces, ponía en la o las fichas, no la fecha de los retoques finales, sino la del día del borrador corregido o de la primera copia en limpio. Quiero decir que conservaba la fecha de la creación verdadera antes que la correspondiente a la segunda o tercera versión. Justo enfrente de mi domicilio actual hay un parque de diversiones muy ruidoso.

Poseemos, pues, un calendario completo de su trabajo. El Canto Primero fue comenzado en las primeras horas del 2 de julio y terminado el 4 de julio. Shade empezó el Canto siguiente el día de su cumpleaños y lo terminó el 11 de julio. Dedicó otra semana al Canto Tercero. El Canto Cuarto fue comenzado el 19 de julio y como ya se ha dicho, el último tercio de su texto (versos 949 a 999) es un borrador corregido. Su apariencia es sumamente desprolija por la proliferación de tachaduras devastadoras y de inserciones cataclísmicas, y no sigue las líneas de la ficha con tanto rigor como la copia en limpio. En realidad, en cuanto uno se zambulle y se esfuerza por abrir los ojos en las límpidas profundidades que hay bajo su confusa superficie, se vuelve maravillosamente preciso. No hay verso con lagunas ni de lectura dudosa. Esto bastaría para demostrar que los cargos hechos (el 24 de julio de 1959) en una entrevista acordada a la prensa por uno de nuestros shadeanos confesos –quien afirmó, sin haber visto el manuscrito del poema, que «consiste en borradores desarticulados, ninguno de los cuales constituye un texto definido»– son una invención malévola de aquellos que desearían no tanto lamentar el estado en que quedó interrumpida por la muerte la obra de un gran poeta, como denigrar la competencia y quizá la honestidad de quien se encarga ahora de su edición y comentario.

Otra declaración pública hecha por el profesor Hurley y su camarilla se refiere a un problema de estructura. Cito de la misma entrevista: «Nadie puede decir cuál era la longitud que John Shade pensaba dar a su poema, pero no es improbable que lo que ha dejado represente sólo una pequeña parte de la composición que él vio en un espejo, oscuramente.» ¡Otro absurdo! Además del verdadero clarín de evidencia interna que resuena a lo largo del Canto Cuarto, tenemos la afirmación de Sybil Shade (en un documento fechado el 25 de julio de 1959) de que su marido «nunca tuvo intención de pasar de cuatro partes». Para él el Canto Tercero era el penúltimo, y yo mismo se lo oí decir, durante un paseo al crepúsculo en que, como pensando en voz alta, pasó revista al trabajo del día y gesticuló en perdonable autoaprobación, mientras su discreto compañero trataba en vano de adaptar el ritmo de sus largos trancos al paso arrastrado y espasmódico del viejo poeta desgreñado. No sólo eso, sino que incluso diré (mientras nuestras sombras siguen caminando sin nosotros) que quedaba por escribir solamente un verso del poema (a saber, el verso 1000), el cual hubiera sido idéntico al verso uno y habría completado la simetría de la estructura, con dos partes centrales idénticas, sólidas y amplias, formando con las dos partes laterales más cortas dos alas gemelas de quinientos versos cada una, y el diablo se lleve esa música. Conociendo la tendencia combinatoria de Shade y su sutil sentido del equilibrio armónico, no puedo convencerme de que tuviera intención de deformar las facetas de su cristal interfiriendo en el curso previsto de su crecimiento. Y si todo esto no fuera bastante –y lo es, es bastante–, tuve la dramática ocasión de escuchar la propia voz de mi pobre amigo anunciando, la noche del 21 de julio, el fin, o casi, de su labor. (Véase mi nota al verso 991.)

Esta tanda de ochenta fichas estaba sujeta por una banda elástica que ahora vuelvo a poner religiosamente después de haber examinado por última vez su precioso contenido. Otra tanda, mucho más pequeña, de una docena de fichas, abrochadas y metidas en el mismo sobre de manila que la tanda principal, contiene algunos pareados más cuyo curso breve y a veces borroneado se prosigue a través de un caos de primeros borradores. Por lo general, Shade destruía los borradores en cuanto dejaba de necesitarlos; bien me acuerdo de haberlo visto desde mi galería, una mañana brillante, quemando toda una pila en el fuego pálido del incinerador delante del cual permanecía con la cabeza inclinada como un miembro oficial de un cortejo fúnebre, entre las mariposas negras, llevadas por el viento, de ese auto de fe de patio trasero. Pero Shade salvó esas doce fichas a causa de los hallazgos no utilizados que brillaban entre la escoria de los borradores utilizados. Tal vez pensaba vagamente sustituir ciertos pasajes de la copia en limpio por algunos de los preciosos desechos de su fichero, o, lo que es más probable, una afición secreta por tal o cual ornamento, suprimido por consideraciones arquitectónicas o porque había irritado a la señora S., le instó a aplazar su destrucción hasta el momento en que la perfección marmórea de un impecable manuscrito dactilografiado la hubiese confirmado o mostrara lo embarazoso e impuro de la variante más deliciosa. Y quizá, permítaseme añadir con toda modestia, tenía intención de pedirme mi opinión después de leerme su poema, como sé que pensaba hacerlo.

En mis notas al poema el lector hallará estas variantes suprimidas. Sus lugares están indicados o por lo menos sugeridos por los esbozos de los versos definitivos situados en su vecindad inmediata. En cierto sentido, muchos de ellos son artística e históricamente más valiosos que algunos de los mejores pasajes del texto definitivo. Debo explicar ahora cómo fue que la edición de Pálido fuego quedó a mi cuidado.

Inmediatamente después de la muerte de mi querido amigo, convencí a su desconsolada viuda de que se adelantara, para anularlas, a las pasiones comerciales y a las intrigas académicas que no dejarían de concitarse en torno al manuscrito de su marido (depositado por mí en un lugar seguro aún antes del entierro de su cuerpo), firmando un acuerdo en el sentido de que él me había entregado el manuscrito, que yo lo haría publicar sin tardanza, con mis comentarios, en una editorial elegida por mí; que todos los beneficios, con excepción del porcentaje del editor, lo corresponderían a ella, y que, el día de la publicación, el manuscrito sería entregado a la Biblioteca del Congreso para su conservación permanente. Desafío a cualquier crítico serio a que demuestre la incorrección de este contrato. Sin embargo ha sido calificado (por el antiguo abogado de Shade) de «fantástico fárrago de malignidad», en tanto que otra persona (su antiguo agente literario) se preguntó con una mueca sardónica si la temblorosa firma de la señora Shade no habría sido trazada «con un extraño tipo de tinta roja». Corazones, espíritus como ésos serían incapaces de comprender que el apego que se puede sentir por una obra maestra es absolutamente irresistible, sobre todo cuando es el revés de la trama lo que transporta a su espectador y único instigador cuyo pasado mismo está entrelazado con el destino del inocente autor.

Como he mencionado, creo, en mi última nota al poema, la carga de profundidad de la muerte de Shade hizo estallar tantos secretos y subir a la superficie tantos peces muertos, que tuve que abandonar New Wye poco después de mi entrevista con el asesino prisionero. La redacción de los comentarios tuvo que aplazarse hasta que yo pudiera encontrar un nuevo incógnito en ambiente más sereno, pero los problemas prácticos relacionados con el poema tenían que quedar arreglados enseguida. Tomé un avión a Nueva York, hice fotografiar el manuscrito, me puse de acuerdo con uno de los editores de Shade y estaba a punto de cerrar trato cuando, como al descuido, en medio de un vasto atardecer (estábamos sentados en una celda de nogal y vidrio, cincuenta pisos por encima de la progresión de los escarabajos), mi interlocutor observó: «Le alegrará saber, doctor Kinbote, que el profesor Fulano (uno de los miembros del comité Shade) ha accedido a servirnos de asesor para editar la cosa.»

Entendámonos, eso de «alegrarse» es extremadamente subjetivo. Uno de nuestros proverbios zemblanos más estúpidos dice: el guante se alegra de perderse. Rápidamente volví a cerrar mi portafolios y me dirigí a otro editor.

Imagínense un gigante suave, torpe; imagínense un personaje histórico cuyo conocimiento del dinero se limita a los miles de millones abstractos de una deuda nacional; ¡imagínense a un príncipe exiliado ignorante de la Golconda que lleva en los gemelos de su camisa! Esto para explicar –oh, hiperbólicamente– que soy el individuo menos práctico del mundo. Entre tal persona y un viejo zorro del mundo editorial, las relaciones son al principio conmovedoramente naturales y amistosas, con chistes expansivos y toda clase de muestras de amistad. No tengo ningún motivo para suponer que nada venga jamás a impedir que ese contacto inicial con el bueno de Frank, mi editor actual, siga siendo permanente.

Frank ha acusado recibo de las pruebas que me habían sido enviadas aquí y me ha pedido que mencionara en mi prefacio –y lo hago con mucho gusto– que soy el único responsable de los errores de mis comentarios. Insertarlo en presencia de un profesional. Un experimentado corrector de pruebas ha vuelto a verificar cuidadosamente el texto impreso del poema teniendo a la vista la fotocopia del manuscrito y ha encontrado unos pocos gazapos triviales que yo había pasado por alto; ésta ha sido toda la ayuda exterior que he recibido. Inútil decir cuánto esperé que Sybil Shade me proporcionara abundantes datos biográficos; desgraciadamente se fue de New Wye antes que yo y ahora está viviendo con unos parientes en Quebec. Desde luego, hubiéramos podido cruzar una correspondencia de lo más fecunda, pero los shadeanos no iban a abandonar la partida. Se encaminaron a Canadá en manada para caer sobre la pobre señora en cuanto yo perdí contacto con ella y sus cambiantes estados de ánimo. En lugar de responder a una carta que yo le había mandado un mes antes desde mi cueva de Cedarn, con una lista de mis problemas más urgentes, tales como el verdadero nombre de «Jim Coates», etc., me envió de pronto un telegrama pidiéndome que aceptara al profesor H. (!) y al profesor C. (!!) como coeditores del poema de su marido. ¡Cuánto me sorprendió y me apenó! Naturalmente, eso impidió la colaboración con la extraviada viuda de mi amigo.

¡Y vaya si era un amigo muy querido! El calendario dice que yo lo había conocido unos pocos meses antes, pero existen amistades que desarrollan su propia duración interna, sus propios eones de tiempo transparente, independientes de esa música que gira, malévola. ¡Nunca olvidaré mi exaltación al enterarme, como lo digo en una nota que hallará mi lector, de que la casa suburbana (del juez Goldsworth, que se había marchado a Inglaterra en su año sabático, y alquilada para mí) a la que me mudé el 5 de febrero de 1959, era vecina de la del célebre poeta norteamericano cuyos versos yo había tratado de traducir al zemblano veinte años atrás! Aparte de esa prestigiosa vecindad, el château goldsworthiano, como lo descubriría enseguida, dejaba mucho que desear. El sistema de calefacción era una broma, pues dependía de unos reguladores instalados en el piso desde donde las tibias exhalaciones de una caldera palpitante y quejumbrosa situada en el sótano se difundía en las habitaciones con la debilidad del último suspiro de un moribundo. Condenando todas las bocas de calor del piso alto traté de dar más energía a los reguladores del salón, pero su temperatura resultó incurablemente perjudicada, por cuanto no había nada entre esa habitación y las regiones árticas salvo una puerta de entrada llena de rendijas, sin el menor vestigio de vestíbulo, sea porque la casa había sido construida en pleno verano por un ingenuo colono que no podía imaginar el tipo de invierno que le esperaba en New Wye, o porque en los viejos tiempos era de buen tono que el visitante casual pudiese comprobar desde el umbral de la puerta que en la sala no pasaba nada indecoroso.

En Zembla, febrero y marzo (los dos últimos de los cuatro «meses de nariz blanca», como les decimos) solían ser también bastante crudos, pero incluso la habitación de un campesino ofrecía una masa de calor uniforme, no una retícula de mortales corrientes de aire. Es cierto que, como suele ocurrir a los recién llegados, me dijeron que yo había elegido el peor invierno en muchos años, y eso en la latitud de Palermo. Una de mis primeras mañanas allí, mientras me preparaba para ir al College en el poderoso coche rojo que acababa de comprar, observé que el señor y la señora Shade, a quienes aún no había sido presentado (me enteraría más tarde de que creían que yo deseaba estar solo), se veían en figurillas con su viejo Packard que emitía quejidos agónicos en el sendero resbaloso sin poder desprender una torturada rueda trasera de un cóncavo infierno de hielo, John Shade se afanaba torpemente con un cubo del cual, con gestos de sobrador, sacaba puñados de arena marrón para esparcirlos en el hielo azul. Llevaba botas para la nieve, se había alzado el cuello de vicuña y su abundante pelo gris parecía escarchado al sol. Yo sabía que había estado enfermo pocos meses antes y con intención de ofrecer a mis vecinos un viaje hasta el campus en mi poderosa máquina, me precipité hacia ellos. Una vereda que rodeaba la ligera eminencia sobre la cual se situaba mi castillo alquilado me separaba del sendero de mis vecinos, y estaba a punto de cruzarla cuando perdí pie y caí sentado sobre la nieve sorprendentemente dura. Mi caída actuó como reactivo químico en el sedan de Shade, que arrancó en el acto y estuvo a punto de pasarme por encima al meterse en el sendero, con John al volante gesticulando laboriosamente mientras Sybil le hablaba con frenesí. No estoy seguro de que me haya visto ninguno de los dos.

Pero pocos días después, el lunes 16 de febrero para ser más exacto, fui presentado al viejo poeta a la hora del almuerzo en el club de profesores. «Por fin presenté mis credenciales», como anoté, con cierta ironía, en mi diario. Me invitaron a sentarme con él y otros cuatro o cinco eminentes profesores a su mesa habitual, bajo una fotografía ampliada del Wordsmith College tal como era, inmóvil y destartalado, en un día del verano de 1903 particularmente sombrío. Su lacónica sugestión de que yo «probara el cerdo» me divirtió. Soy rigurosamente vegetariano y me gusta preparar mis propias comidas. Consumir algo que había sido manipulado por uno de mis semejantes, expliqué a los rubicundos convidados, era tan repugnante para mí como comerme una criatura humana, incluida –bajé la voz– la carnosa estudiante con cola de caballo que nos atendía chupando el lápiz. Además ya había terminado de comer las frutas que había traído en mi portafolios, de modo que me contentaría, dije, con una botella de buena cerveza del College. Mi actitud libre y sencilla puso a todo el mundo cómodo. Me hicieron las habituales preguntas acerca de si los eggnogs y los milkshakes eran o no permitidos a quienes pensaban como yo. Shade dijo que él era justo lo contrario: tenía que hacer un decidido esfuerzo para tocar una legumbre. Empezar una ensalada era para él como meterse en el mar un día frío, y siempre precisaba darse ánimos para atacar la fortaleza de una manzana. Yo no estaba todavía acostumbrado a las bromas y a las burlas más bien cansadoras que son habituales entre los intelectuales norteamericanos del tipo académico innato, y entonces me abstuve de decirle a John Shade, en presencia de esos viejos varones bromistas, cuánto admiraba su obra, para evitar que una discusión literaria seria degenerara en simple jarana. En cambio le pregunté acerca de uno de mis alumnos más recientes que también asistía a su curso, un muchacho taciturno, delicado, bastante maravilloso; pero sacudiendo enérgicamente su escarchada crin, el viejo poeta contestó que había dejado hacía mucho de memorizar las caras y los nombres de los estudiantes y que la única persona de su clase de poesía que podía visualizar era una señora oyente que usaba muletas. –Vamos, vamos –dijo el profesor Hurley–, ¿usted quiere decir, John, que no tiene una imagen mental o visceral de esa rubia impresionante que frecuenta Lit. 202? –Shade, resplandeciendo en todas sus arrugas, tocó ligeramente la muñeca de Hurley para hacerlo callar. Otro torturador preguntó si era cierto que yo había instalado dos mesas de ping-pong en el sótano de mi casa. Le pregunté: –¿Es un crimen? –No –dijo–, ¿pero por qué dos? –¿Es un crimen doble? –le repliqué, y todos se echaron a reír.

A pesar de un corazón desfalleciente (véase verso 735), de una leve cojera y cierta contorsión extraña al caminar, Shade tenía un gusto inmoderado por los largos paseos a pie, pero la nieve le molestaba y en invierno prefería que su mujer fuera a buscarlo con el coche después de las clases. Unos días más tarde, como me dispusiera a salir de la Sala Parthenocissus –o Sala Principal (o ahora, ¡ay!, Sala Shade)–, lo vi afuera, esperando a que la señora Shade viniera a buscarlo. Me quedé a su lado un minuto, en los peldaños del peristilo, y mientras me ponía los guantes, dedo por dedo, mirando a lo lejos como si fuera a pasar revista a un regimiento: –Un trabajo bien hecho –comentó el poeta. Consultó su reloj pulsera. Un copo de nieve le cayó encima. –Cristal sobre cristal –dijo Shade. Le ofrecí llevarlo a su casa en mi poderoso Kramler. –Las esposas, señor Shade, son olvidadizas. –Irguió la hirsuta cabeza para mirar el reloj de la biblioteca. Dos radiantes muchachos vestidos con pintorescas ropas de invierno cruzaron riendo y resbalando la desolada extensión de hierba cubierta de nieve. Shade echó otra mirada a su reloj y, encogiéndose de hombros, aceptó mi ofrecimiento.

Le pregunté si no le importaba que tomara el camino más largo para detenerme en Community Center, donde quería comprar unos bizcochos revestidos de chocolate y un poco de caviar. Dijo que encantado. Desde el interior del supermercado, a través de la vitrina, vi al viejo que se precipitaba a un bar. Cuando volví con mis compras, estaba de vuelta en el coche leyendo una revista que no pensé que un poeta se dignara tocar. Un eructo satisfecho me indicó que disimulaba un frasco de coñac en su bien arropada persona. Cuando doblamos en su calle, vimos que Sybil llegaba delante de la casa. Bajé con cortés solicitud. Ella dijo: –Como mi marido no cree en las presentaciones, hagámoslo nosotros mismos: usted es el doctor Kinbote, ¿no es cierto? Y yo soy Sybil Shade. –Después se dirigió a su marido diciéndole que hubiera podido esperar un minuto más en su escritorio; ella había hecho sonar la bocina, llamado, subido todas las escaleras, etc. Me volví para irme, porque no deseaba presenciar una escena conyugal, pero ella me retuvo: –Tome un trago con nosotros –dijo– o mejor dicho conmigo, porque a John le está prohibido el alcohol. –Expliqué que no podía quedarme mucho rato porque iba a haber una especie de clase de trabajos prácticos en casa, seguida por un poco de ping-pong con dos encantadores mellizos idénticos y otro muchacho, otro muchacho.

A partir de ese momento comencé a ver cada vez con más frecuencia a mi célebre vecino. La vista desde una de mis ventanas me proporcionaba un entretenimiento de primera, especialmente mientras esperaba a algún invitado tardío. Desde el segundo piso de mi casa la ventana del salón de los Shade era perfectamente visible mientras estaban desnudas las ramas de los árboles de follaje caduco que nos separaban, y casi todas las noches podía ver el pie en pantuflas del poeta balanceándose suavemente. Uno deducía que estaba sentado con un libro en un sillón pero no se podía ver nada más que el pie y su sombra moviéndose de arriba abajo al ritmo secreto de la absorción mental, en la luz concentrada de la lámpara. Siempre en el mismo momento la pantufla de cuero marroquí marrón caía del calcetín de lana del pie que seguía oscilando, aunque con una cadencia un poco más lenta. Uno sabía que la hora del sueño se acercaba con todos sus terrores; que en pocos minutos el pulgar tantearía y acosaría a la pantufla y desaparecería luego con ella de mi dorado campo de visión atravesada por la negra comba de una rama. Y a veces Sybil Shade pasaba con la velocidad y los braceos de alguien que sale en un acceso de cólera de un lugar para volver poco después, con paso mucho más lento, como si hubiera perdonado a su marido su amistad con un vecino excéntrico; pero el enigma de su conducta quedó totalmente resuelto una noche en que, al marcar su número de teléfono mientras observaba la ventana, la induje mágicamente a repetir los movimientos apresurados y absolutamente inocentes que me habían intrigado.

Ay, mi tranquilidad de espíritu pronto se haría trizas. El espeso veneno de la envidia empezó a salpicarme no bien los suburbios académicos se dieron cuenta de que John Shade prefería mi compañía a la de todos los demás. Su risita burlona, mi querida señora C., no se nos escapó cuando yo ayudaba al viejo poeta cansado a encontrar sus galochas después de aquella aburrida reunión en la casa de usted. Un día que fui a la oficina de la sección de Literatura Inglesa a buscar una revista con una fotografía del Palacio Real de Onhava que quería mostrar a mi amigo, sorprendí a un joven profesor con chaqueta de terciopelo verde, a quien llamaré misericordiosamente Gerald Emerald, en el momento en que contestaba descuidadamente a una pregunta del secretario: «Me imagino que el señor Shade ya se ha ido con el Gran Castor.» Es cierto que soy bastante alto y que mi barba castaña es bastante rica de textura y color; el apodo tonto evidentemente se me aplicaba a mí, pero no merecía atención alguna, y después de tomar con calma la revista de una mesa cubierta de folletos, me limité a deshacer el nudo de la corbata mariposa de Gerald Emerald con un golpe seco de los dedos al pasar delante de él. Hubo también la mañana en que el doctor Nattochdag, jefe del departamento del que yo dependía, me rogó con voz formal que me sentara, cerró la puerta y después de volver a su sillón giratorio con aire sombrío, me instó a que «tuviera más cuidado». ¿Cuidado en qué sentido? Un muchacho se había quejado a su padrino de tesis. ¿Quejado de qué, por el amor de Dios? De que yo hubiera criticado un curso de literatura que él seguía («un estudio ridículo de obras ridículas, a cargo de una ridícula mediocridad»). Con una carcajada de verdadero alivio, abracé al bueno de Netochka, prometiéndole que nunca más volvería a ser malo. Aprovecho esta oportunidad para saludarlo. Siempre se comportó con una cortesía tan exquisita conmigo, que a veces me pregunto si no habría

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  • (5/5)
    I recommend the boxed edition of the "Pale Fire" poem (without the ironic footnotes, that is another story), issued by Berkeley's Gingko Press, which must have exercised attentive quality control over production. I discovered many small touches that were not obvious until I got it home and took off the plastic wrapping: like the title in blind tooling echoing the red title on the top of the book box, the recessed pasted-on illustration, the pasted on title for "Reflections" (rather like the old "Insel" books, now Insel just uses photo replicas of pasted-on titles). The book cloth is sturdy and durable, the style masculine, not at all "old lady" precious. For the $35 I paid, it is quite a bargain, a lot more than I expected. Reading the poem and Brian Boyd's commentary in this format is a tactile aesthetic experience, very much in keeping with the textures in the text.
  • (5/5)
    I feel like in order to really get everything out of this book, you probably need to read it more than once. There is so much detail and nuance that I must have missed some things.

    Everyone says (because it's true) that Nabokov is a master of language. Seriously, the man is (was) totally brilliant. So many quotable passages, so many incredible ideas, and a few heart-wrenching emotional parts as well.

    You have to read slowly and patiently and pay attention to detail. There's a lot going on and it pays off if you give it the proper time and attention.
  • (5/5)
    Read this book (audio) by Nabokov as part of TBR takedown challenge in 2019. I do think that this is a book that would be nice to have both audio and print book because it is a book with a unique structure. Written in 1962. It is about a poet and his 999 line poem with 4 cantos and his academic neighbor who writes the forward and commentary, so it is about two authors. Characters:Slade: the poet who wrote the poem Pale Fire (a title from Shakespeare).Kinbote: the self appointed editor of Slade's poem.There is a plot here and the reader can glean that from the comments my Kinbolt which really are not that much about the actual poem. Structure:Metafiction A form of literature where the reader is constantly aware of reading a work of fiction. poioumenon: literature that relies on narrative techniqueAn example of hypertext. Plot; Shade's poem describes many aspects of his life. Canto 1 includes his early encounters with death and glimpses of what he takes to be the supernatural. Canto 2 is about his family and the apparent suicide of his daughter, Hazel Shade. Canto 3 focuses on Shade's search for knowledge about an afterlife, culminating in a "faint hope" in higher powers "playing a game of worlds" as indicated by apparent coincidences. Canto 4 offers details on Shade's daily life and creative process, as well as thoughts on his poetry, which he finds to be a means of somehow understanding the universe.In Kimbote's story we have 3 stories, one about himself, second story deals with King Charles II, third story is that of Gradus, an assassin dispatched by the new rulers of Zembla to kill the exiled King CharlesTite: title of John Shade's poem is from Shakespeare's Timon of Athens: "The moon's an arrant thief, / And her pale fire she snatches from the sun" (Act IV, scene 3), a line often taken as a metaphor about creativity and inspiration. There is debates about whether this is an actual story or a elaborate word play by Nabokov on literature and other social commentaries. The book (the poem) starts with these lines;I was the shadow of the waxwing slainBy the false azure in the window paneI really liked this opening as it is so real. So many birds have been slain by my own windows. There are also references to his Lolita and Pnin. There are many references of culture, nature, and literature. So many, too many to list really. I will have to get me a paper copy of this book. It is too fantastic not to have it on the virtual shelf.
  • (3/5)
    I first read Pale Fire more than 25 years ago when it seemed wonderfully clever and amusing. Andrea Pitzer's marvellous study, The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov, led me back to read Pale Fire again. It hasn't worn well. The immense body of exegetical scholarship which it has accumulated over the years seems only to make the faults more painfully apparent. The book is certainly a puzzler's delight and it has some interesting implications with respect to the decline of Nabokov's powers as a novelist after Lolita. Neither of these interests is sufficient to redeem Pale Fire. It is unnecessary to recapitulate the structure or plot of the novel. Other reviewers have done so with admirable brevity. My comments will be mostly negative. First: Kinbote, the deranged critic/commentator who will occupy most of the reader's time, is a repellent creation and, far worse than that, he is consistently obtuse and almost always trivial. Nabokovian prose and a diverting set of word and plot puzzles aren't sufficient to place Charles Kinbote among the emotionally or intellectually engaging characters in the literary pantheon. Nor can Kinbote be defended as some kind of hilarious, biting or penetrating portrait of some recognisable variety of critic or commentator. He is too silly, too consistently wrong or obtuse. Second: John Shade's poem, from which the novel takes its title, sags terribly in its final canto. Even Kinbote concedes that Canto 4 is a failure. It begins with false grandiloquence: 'Now I shall spy on beauty as none as spied on it yet...&' and declines thereafter into the bathos of Shade shaving in his bathtub. What interest the last canto has derives from the reader's foreknowledge that it will never be completed and that Shade will be the unintended victim of the assassin Gradus or Grey. Three stars for the remnants of Nabokov's craft as a prose stylist. And, too, for the heart-searing pain of Canto 2 of Pale Fire, which recounts the life and suicide of John Shade's poor ugly duckling daughter, Hazel. Here, the cruelty of the novelist as creator goes hand in hand with his compassion for the suffering which he inflicts on his creations.
  • (5/5)
    Pale Fire is a masterpiece, a work of fiction so thought-provoking, entertaining and poetic that no library is complete without it. It is also an unorthodox novel, with the structure of an academic text. At the center of the novel is the poem, ``Pale Fire,'' by fictional poet John Shade. This 999 line poem is then supplemented with a preface, an index, and most importantly, a couple hundred pages of line by line commentary on the poem by Charles Kinbote, a fellow academic and friend of Shade's. His comments on the poem tell a story all their own as Kinbote is, without a doubt, the least reliable literary critic imaginable.What he is, however, is an intriguing story teller, and his tale of the royal family of Zembla, and the fall of their last king, King Charles the Beloved, is an enjoyable yarn, complete with Nabokov's legendary prose prowess. It would be a mistake to ask, though, whether the story of Pale Fire is the story Shade tells in his poem, or whether it is Kinbote's tale of King Charles. The story of the novel is in the combination of the two, and most importantly, in the evaluation of what is really going on. Nabokov masterfully moves us through the plot, building us towards a revelation, and as we reader first guess and ultimately grasp, this revelation, we think we are in control of the story. The entire time though, Nabokov is in control, and the questions he raises by the end of the novel throw the reader's entire reading experience in question. I'll say something a bit less vague about this at the end of this review, where I will more freely make use of spoilers.Kinbote's tales are exciting, and Nabokov's story telling is masterful and thought-provoking. The novel is also beautifully poetic, and quite funny. Kinbote's disdain for Shade's wife Sybill is all over the notes, as he blames her for keeping him from getting even closer to Shade. These passive aggressive notes are frequently amusing, as are some of the details of the various adventures of the Zemblans. The language is also mesmerizing, both in Shade's poem and in Kinbote's commentary. Take Kinbote's discussion of suicide (another example of the humor of the novel, as Kinbote explains why various possible suicide options are less than ideal), culminating in the recommendation that one leaps from an airplane: ``Down you go, but all the while you feel suspended and buoyed as you somersault in slow motion like a somnolent tumbler pigeon, and sprawl supine on the eiderdown of the air, or lazily turn to embrace your pillow, enjoying ever last instant of soft, deep, death-padded life, with the earth's green seesaw now above, now below, and the voluptuous crucifixion, as you stretch yourself in the growing rush, in the nearing swish, and then your loved body's obliteration in the Lap of the Lord'' (170).Or the famous opening lines to Shade's poem:``I was the shadow of the waxwing slain / by the false azure of the windowpane; / I was the smudge of ashen fluff - and I / lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky'' (25).There are few that have ever written as Nabokov does, and the novel is riddled with his sublime wordplay, beautiful description and elegant prose. Coupled with the brilliantly crafted tale, this is a novel which deserves the highest of praise.In the remainder of this review, I will say a few things about the novel which spoil the main story, and I wish to give fair warning. This novel is best experienced without knowing too much about it, as it allows Nabokov to take you along at his pace.In particular, the revelation that we the reader feel we have a handle on, rather slyly from our armchair, is that Kinbote is actually King Charles. His interest in Shade's poem is based on the fact that he wants Shade to tell his story, and not just a story from his homeland. Where Nabokov takes us, however, is to a point where we ask whether anything Kinbote has told us is real in the first place. Was Gradus a reactionary from Zembla, who failed to kill his target, his former King? Or is he John Grey, a local man who mistook Shade for the judge who sent him away? We want answers, but they are not forthcoming in the novel. At the heart of the book is a mystery, and we can do our best to work it out from the periphery, but we never get the sort of clear answer one usually finds in a novel.This has made the work a really fruitful domain for literary theorists, and though I am no expert in the field, I find their discussions of the novel fascinating. Some argue, and with some support from Nabokov himself, that the clues are there to identify Kinbote as a Russian professor at Shade's university (drawing parallels to Nabokov!), and that Kinbote is his invented personality. Others argue that Kinbote does not exist at all, and that he is a mere figment of Shade's imagination (and a few, the contrary). This is all on top of the more obvious and simple interpretations suggested by a first pass through the novel. It is no exaggeration to say that Pale Fire rewards careful scrutiny and subsequent readings. It is far too rich to fully absorb and appreciate in one sitting. We are used to ``twist endings'' in literature and film these days, which force us to rethink everything we have read or seen. More often than not, they are simple devices, in which a key assumption we have been making (usually implicitly) is explicitly denied. Nabokov's novel is far more interesting. His ``twist'' is that the reader is not quite sure where to stand, what is solid ground and what is not. We know we have to rethink what has come before, but we are not yet sure how, and part of the richness of the novel is derived from it. It challenges the reader without resorting to gimmicks, or nonsensical plot devices. Close scrutiny, careful attention, and an open mind are rewarded when reading Pale Fire. Taken together with its entertaining yarns, humorous interludes and stunning prose, you have one of the best novels of the century.
  • (4/5)
    The gleaming perfection of Nabokov's sentences deserves four stars even if there were nothing else to recommend this book. The striking format, challenging the very definition of the novel and illuminating the awkward relationship between author and fan, should push it up to five. But the grotesquely broad (and frankly homophobic) characterization of the narrator soured the whole thing for me, and made it hard to take seriously. Plus, a lot of the stuff about Zembla was simply boring, despite the gleaming sentences.
  • (5/5)
    Nabokov is a genius. Exquisite poetry, ridiculous farce, and fascinating murder mystery, all in a strikingly original form. "One of the great works of art of this century."
  • (4/5)
    Nabokov is known for being the king of unreliable narrators and I still fell for this one. I love metatextual books like S. and House of Leaves, so of course when I found out that this was in the same vein it had to become my first Nabokov. An engrossing story told via commentary on the last poem by an aging poet - the ways in which the two have nothing to do with each other is fascinating. The Introduction in the Everyman's Library edition I have is excellent, too, and not only because it warns you ahead of time not to read the Introduction before you've read the book.
  • (4/5)
    Pale Fire, another "academic" novel by Vladimir Nabokov, is a fun romp. "Pale Fire" is the name of a long poem (not unlike "Eugene Onegin") by the poet and university professor John Shade, who dies very quickly after completing it. His neighbor, Charles Kinbote, also a professor and huge fan of Shade, manages to obtain the poem and writes the definitive line-by-line commentary to the poem, which is published together as the book "Pale Fire". As the commentary progresses, the reader learns of a nefarious plot hinted at in the poem, and fully explained by the commentator. Nabokov was having fun with the whole business of literary interpretation, and maybe forewarning the future readers of his own commentaries on "Eugene Onegin". [On an almost entirely unrelated note, I've had this paperback for many years, but never read it. When I opened it, I found a receipt from when I bought it around 1979 from a used bookstore called "Fahrenheit 451" in Laguna Beach. 'Pale Fire'? 'Fahrenheit 451'? Just a coincidence? I think not. :-) ]
  • (4/5)
    Pale Fire is a parody and a commentary wrapped in suspense. There are two central characters, poet John Francis Shade and self-appointed editor of Shade, Charles Kinbote. Right away there is a foreboding air about Kinbote. Something about him doesn't seem right. He asserts only one line is missing from the poem, the last one - line 1000. How does he know this after being Shade's neighbor for only five months (from February 5th, 1959 to July 21, 1959)? He admits that twenty years earlier he tried to translate Shade. The word tried implies he was unsuccessful. Why was that? When Kinbote first moved next door he wasn't invited into the Shade household. He was reduced to spying through the hedges and trees; an "orgy of spying" he admits (p 68).But, the poem nor Kinbote's relationship are the real focus of Pale Fire. Kinbote's commentary allows him to tell a fantastic story of an assassin from the fictional land of Zembla set out to kill a fictional king. I agreed with New York Times critic George Cloyne in that Pale Fire can't be read straight through with any satisfaction. It's a tale to be dipped into from time to time. Despite it being only 289 pages long it took me forever to finish.
  • (4/5)
    It's been said by many others, but it truly IS all in the footnotes - ignore them at your peril. If Nabokov directs, you must follow...A unique book among books, it can be read on several levels.
  • (5/5)
    This beautiful and complicated novel rewards the reader on several levels, and that's just on first reading. It is elegantly structured. The first level looks simple enough -- an introduction of a poem, the poem itself, and then a series of notes on the poem -- but this explodes into complexity when you begin to understand just how unreliable a narrator we are dealing with, and just how wild are his beliefs about the poem (and about everything?) That makes it into a bit of a mystery. Who is the narrator? what is his real relation to the poet. The language of course is gorgeous (this is Nabokov, after all). Finally the whole thing is terribly funny, as an examination of delusion and as a takedown of the American liberal arts college. I plan to re-read the book, and to read a book of criticism about it ( Brian Boyd's "'Pale Fire': The Magic of Artistic Discovery"). After that I may revise the review, but for now I can only say how glad I am that I finally read it.
  • (5/5)
    One man's madness ...
    Pale Fire explores the wayward mind of Charles Kinbote, a university teacher brimming with outrageous delusions.
    Firstly, he believes himself to be the exiled King of Zembla (Zembla being a "distant northern land" in the vain of Hyperborea or, say, Avalon).
    Secondly, Kinbote is obsessed with an old poet named John Shade, who just happens to live across the street near the campus, and it's with Shade's latest and last poem that the novel begins, a poem which Kinote utterly misinteprets as being about his life in the kingdom of Zembla and his daring escape to America from a plot to assassinate him.
    The result of all this delusion is a humorous, puzzling, and elegantly imaginative account of one man's insanity, a madness that turns out to be strangely endearing, and which during its exposure invites the reader to decipher the truth of what really happened.
    Concisely extravagant and weirdly exotic - some say Nabokov's finest novel, some may be perturbed by the foibles of the writer - overall an intriguing mix of fantasy and reality, truth and lies.
  • (3/5)
    A very thought provoking read, but a lot of style and (maybe) not a lot of substance. I needed a lot of outside sources to decode of the games Nabokov was playing. Intensely funny though.
  • (2/5)
    This is another one of those books labelled a classic where it appears to me that the author is weaving a puzzle, or adding complexity to the very idea of reading or writing to give the reader several levels to think about. Interesting, I'll give it that.
  • (3/5)
    A clever way to write a novel: as extensive notes written by a madman to a 1000-line poem. The poem itself is very good. The notes indirectly tell a story, but you have to read between the lines to figure out what actually happened. At first it's fun and humorous and kind of satisfying, but after 100 pages or so it gets old and just keeps going with more of the same. It's impressive that Nabokov can make the story work at all in this format, but in the end not having a traditional story arc hurts the readability more than it's worth.
  • (4/5)
    I first read this novel two years ago. While certainly appreciating it back then it struck me on more levels when reading it now, anno 2007. The many subtle references and puns can only be followed upon rereading; something Nabokov must have purposely designed.Pale Fire is one of the more difficult novels I've ever read, but if you adhere to someone's famous motto "stay the course" you"ll find some nice treasures at the bottom of the rainbow. Especially recommended for readers interested in Postmodern fiction, cybertext and literary criticism.
  • (2/5)
    Interesting, but not as good as the hype.
  • (5/5)
    Pale Fire is a true work of genius. If you have not yet read this book, run, do not walk, to your nearest bookstore and pick it up. It is one of those books that if you don't read another this year, you absolutely MUST read this one. I would most definitely recommend it to readers who are not married to the traditional novel, or who enjoy a bit of challenge in their reading. I wouldn't recommend it to those who only read mainstream fiction -- you probably won't like this book.The structure of Pale Fire is this: First there is a foreward to the poem "Pale Fire," is a 4-canto poem, composed of 999 lines in couplet form. The poem is followed by a commentary, the bulk of the text of Nabokov's work. The surprise is this: The poem is purportedly written by one John Shade, an aging professor at a small university in Appalachia somewhere, but the commentary is written by Charles Kinbote, who as it becomes very clear as the pages progress, feels that he has provided Shade with thematic material for the poem, based on Kinbote's life as an exile from the country of Zembla. As things move along, the reader begins to realize that what we have here is a case of the unreliable narrator. As the Forward begins, the reader is introduced to Charles Kinbote, who is writing the forward to Shade's last work, but by the end of the commentary section, you're not really sure who this guy is. There are clues interspersed throughout as to just who we are dealing with, for example, on page 194, the narrator notes that after Shade's death, faculty members at John Shade's university circulated a letter that stated in part"the manuscript fell into the hands of a person who not only is unqualified for the job of editing it, belonging as he does to another department, but is known to have a deranged mind." (194)This is certainly not the first inkling that we can't rely on Kinbote's story and it won't be the last. Besides, we know that Kinbote is dying to get his hands on Shade's poem because he is just positive that Shade has written a tribute to Kinbote's native land, Zembla, and the commentary weaves references throughout to Zembla, the revolution that sent the king into exile; in fact, within the commentary there is an entire story about this place and its king, complete with his childhood, his youth and career as king. But as it turns out, Shade's poem turns out to be an autobiographical reminiscence and musings on what awaits after death; all the same, the commentary makes everything bend to the will of the writer of the commentary. And, as Kinbote notes in his foreward, "for better or worse, it is the commentator who has the last word." (29)So, who is Kinbote? Is he really who he purports to be? Is he a Russian emigre named Botkin who has changed the letters around in his name? Is he the King of Zembla? Is he Gradus, the king killer? Or, is this all just one big made up story by some other unknown person? If you, like myself, fall into the trap of trying to keep track of all of "clues," and attempt to piece the story together, you're going to come to a point at which you just stop and realize that you cannot do this because of the nature of the novel. This is the sheer genius and beauty of Pale Fire as written by Nabokov -- add to this comments thrown in here and there about being an author, the craft of writing and this book turns out to be one of the best books you'll ever read.There are, of course, several commentaries, analyses and critiques of this novel to be found, so I'll leave you to those. I can't do it justice here, but suffice it to say, if you like this sort of thing, you won't be able to put this book down.
  • (5/5)
    Inventive and often hilarious novel that is so completely different from the only other Nabokov novel I have read (Lolita). Pale Fire consists of a Foreword, a Poem, a Commentary and an Index. When I first requested the title from the library, I thought I had ordered the wrong version. I prefer an original publication with no analysis by editors or other authors. When I first received my request, I sent it back thinking I had inadvertantly ordered an analysis-type book. I then happened upon a one-paragraph description in one of the "here are the books you absolutely must read" books I've been looking through that explained the setup of the novel. I ordered again, making sure I requested a true version of the novel. Charles Kinbote, an unreliable narrator if there ever was one, tells of his neighbor, the poet John Shade and his last work, Pale Fire. Kinbote seems to believe that this last poem of Shade's will be inspired by the stories he has told Shade of his homeland, Zembla, and it's fugitive king. We learn in the forword that Shade dies soon after finishing the poem and that Kinbote has drawn the wrath of Shade's widow.The poem itself is interesting enough to hold a reader's attention.The commentary is the meat of the novel. In it, Kinbote teeters between actual analysis of the work and the story he believes is the inspiration for the poem - that of King Charles of Zembla. While I figured out where the novel was headed pretty quickly, I thoroughly enjoyed the ride - it was an addicting read for me.I laughed out loud at a number of sections. The changing colors of a pair of swim trunks on a young boy; the mutations of state names when seeking out the vacation spot of the Shades; the numerous references to Sybil Shade and her dislike of Mr. Kinbote; the sheer absurdity of the hired hitman's miscommunications with his superiors.So inventive and so different - I plan to revisit this novel again some day and revel again in the prose and poetry.
  • (3/5)
    During a radio broadcast in 1939 Winston Churchill said: "I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma;". This is an apt epigraph for a discussion of the puzzles that are presented in Nabokov's endlessly fascinating novel, Pale Fire. It is like no other novel that I have ever read, if it is a novel. On the surface it seems straightforward. There is a foreword by Charles Kinbote, the poem Pale Fire by John Shade, followed by 230 pages of commentary by Kinbote, and concluding with an index. Oh, if it were only that simple. The reader is alerted early in the foreword by references to someplace called Zembla and interjections by Kinbote about his personal life that seem out of place in the introduction to a substantial poem in four cantos. After reading the poem and less than half of the commentary it becomes clear (with many unanswered questions and puzzles) that there are several narratives coexisting in this book. Among them are the Shade domestic story (primarily related in the poem) including the tragic event of the death of Hazel, Shade's daughter. The story of Charles, the King of Zembla and Gradus, an assassin hired to kill the King. Finally interpolated with these is Charles Kinbote's own story. All of these are connected in various ways and discovering the connections, underlying references (literary and otherwise) could become a lifetime endeavor depending your level of obsession or interest in such things. Needless to say, this book has spawned a small industry within literary academia to fulfill the interest and obsessions of those who devote their lives to such things. One example of the puzzling nature of this book is best described by Prof. Michael Wood who said in his book The Magician's Doubts:"John Shade's poem is not about Zembla, and Kinbote's disappointment is crucial, along with his attempted piracy, and the cramming of his commentary with everything he thinks the poem should have contained." ("The Demons of Our Pity", p 188)That the commentary contains more references to events outside of and perhaps related to the poem (perhaps not) is just one of the many puzzles in this fantastic novel. I may have further comments on my reading of Pale Fire, but I may not out of fear that I will not know when to stop.
  • (5/5)
    Pale Fire is one the funniest books I have ever read. The book is structured as a foreword, a poem, commentary, and an index. I personally don't like poetry very much, but the poem was so bad that I'm pretty sure Nabokov was making fun of poetry and poetry analysis in general. As I started reading more of the "commentary" it seemed pretty clear that it really had very little to do with the poem, although each paragraph or couple of pages were supposed to refer back to a certain set of lines. Instead what the reader gets is the story of the analyzer, Charles Kinbote...neighbor of John Shade, the author of the poem. From the very beginning, during the foreword, we know that Shade has died and that Kinbote has taken it upon himself to publish the 1000 line poem. Throughout the commentary we learn about Kinbote's country of birth (somewhere near Russia) where he was allegedly a king, but was exiled or is in hiding in the United States. We also learn about his short friendship with John Shade (and his intense dislike of Shade's wife Sybil) and how he tried to supply Shade with material by telling him stories of Zembla, his homeland. However, Kinbote is extremely disappointed when he reads the final draft of the poem realizing that Shade has "cut out" most of anything having to do with Zembla. However, Kinbote is still obsessed with publishing the poem, and adding his commentary so the reader can understand what "important" aspects were removed. To the reader, it seems pretty clear that Kinbote and John Shade were not best friends. The more likely scenario is that Kinbote was a bit of a nosy neighbor who perhaps admired John, but that the admiration was not mutual. Kinbote seems tolerated at best, a bit of a nuisance. Also, all of the talk about being a former beloved king in a faraway country leads one to believe that Kinbote might not just be annoying, but possibly crazy. So you get a parody of poetry analysis, a story of a lopsided friendship, and even a bit of a mystery. Highly recommended.
  • (4/5)
    Brilliant! A novel about a poem, on many many levels.
  • (3/5)
    Because of its complexity and very non-linear narrative, this novel is a challenge to read. It is difficult to extract what is fiction and reality, where characters begin and stop, and as such, I never really embarked into the story nor grasped its meaning. There are bouts that are hilarious but there are lengthy passages which I found hard to plod through. I'm sure this merits a second reading, but I'm not up for it.
  • (5/5)
    Pale Fire is such a wondrously original and imaginative piece of writing. It's also very very clever and wickedly funny at the same time. Just brilliant. Not an easy book to read straight through quickly though - hours were spent reading the commentary with a finger stuck in the relevant section of the poem, flicking back and forward. Definitely a book for a re-read at a later date. There are layers upon layers of meaning and many "clues" I'm sure are still there waiting for me.The poem itself is a masterpiece. Largely autobiographical (by John Shade), it ranges from pure twaddle to philosophical musings on death and what comes after. Some sections are full of pathos and quite moving, such as when Shade writes about his daughter Hazel and her untimely death, or Aunt Maud after her stroke. And to be able to write it as a 999 line poem in (often extremely ingenious) rhyming couplets is a real feat.Charles Kinbote's commentary (complete with Index) is totally bizarre. The man is a complete and utter nutter! The way he weaved in 'his' story into the critique of the poem shows admirable self-obsession, and the goings on in Zembla and during the escape are absolutely hilarious.I'm sure there are many very 'good' and interesting reviews of this wonderful book to be found in numerous places; what I say here cannot do it justice. But in the end Nabokov is playing with us as readers. What exactly is reality and what is truth here in this convoluted and complex tale?
  • (5/5)
    Lush, pulpy, purple prose ladled onto a fragile bird-boned skeleton of a plot. God, what utterly delicious, virtuoso writing. Granted, the entire conceit of the novel (and god, what a douchebag, pretentious conceit) is smirking and satisfied and showy, but Jesus what a show. Nabokov rolls out the plushest, most decadent phrases in the English language.I should probably re-read this with tabs to Wikipedia flying out all over the place.
  • (4/5)
    In this complex piece of literature, we explore the psyche of Charles Kinbote, an eccentric and obsessive man who is writing the introduction and notes to a 999-line poem entitled Pale Fire by a recently deceased poet with whom Kinbote has become enamored. Nabokov's novel isn't written in novel-form, though. It has four major parts: Kinbote's introduction to Pale Fire, the poem itself, Kinbote's prolific footnotes, and his index. This doesn't really sound like an engrossing story, I know, but descriptions can be misleading. Kinbote's notes are hilarious, sad, and frightening. As the book proceeds, we readers become more aware of the depth of Kinbote's obsessions - we learn more about who he is (arguably, who he thinks he is) and, through the unreliable testimonies of Kinbote, we learn about the passions of the poet John Shade. This is the type of book that has so many layers, you'll never find the core...but you'll be fascinated and laughing in turns while you look. This was my first reading of the book, and I'd have to read it again to decide on my own interpretation. I was really impressed by the audiobook production...this isn't the type of story that lends itself well to audio, but they did an admirable job. There were two readers, one for Kinbote's thoughts and one for the poem of John Shade. Both readers did a fantastic job...especially Vietor with Kinbote. He put JUST the right emphasis on words so that I would catch the humor in the complex word-play. However, if I read it again, I'll probably do it using the written-word so I can flip back and forth. This book is definitely worth a read if you like unique stories and complex psyches.
  • (4/5)
    A very unique style -- using the form of literary criticism to tell the story of 3 men whose lives intersect very briefly. The ostensible main character, the American poet & academic John Shade, gives his story in the form of a poem in 4 Cantos (written in a style somewhat reminiscent of Longfellow). The actual main character, the Zemblan exile Charles Kinbote, gives his story in the form of literary commentary on Shade's poem. Kinbote also includes in the commentary the story of the 3rd man, Jacob Gradus, who is also from Zembla & is on an assassination mission to kill the former King of Zembla. Nabokov doesn't deviate from the format of literary criticism one jot -- no subtle winks or nudges that this is all a big joke. He even includes a detailed Index at the end!
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    Gets bonus points for a creative structure that didn't feel gimmicky. Probably requires another reading.