Book: Pale Fire - Livre d'Or








Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes. * Blogroll * Strange words * More links * Bookies * Microblog * Recent comments * Humans only * Second degree * By topic * Cool posts * Writing * New post

Tags

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *



livredor
Book: Pale Fire
Thursday, 11 August 2005 at 01:24 pm
Tags:

Previous Entry Next Entry


Author: Vladimir Nabokov

Details: (c) 1962 Vera Nabokov & Dimitri Nabokov; pub Vintage International 1989; ISBN 0-679-72342-0

Verdict: Pale Fire is very weird indeed, and probably too clever for me.

Reasons for reading it: lethargic_man has been recommending it to me for absolutely ages but I've never happened to find a copy until this trip.

How it came into my hands: The Strand bookshop

I really don't know what to make of Pale Fire. Although it is a classic, I had no idea what it was going to be about when I started reading it, so I initially took it at face value when it claimed it was a commentary on a (fictional) poem. Thus I spent about the first third of the book being entirely confused by being unable to see any obvious connection between the "commentary" and the poem. Once I had figured out that it wasn't supposed to be an actual commentary, I still couldn't entirely work out what was supposed to be going on.

I like the way that both Kinbote and Shade are characterized, especially the contrasts between how the reader perceives the two men and how Kinbote perceives both himself and Shade. The adventures of the exiled Zemblan king seemed mostly silly but enjoyable enough on a story level to keep me reading. PF also made me laugh rather a lot too, which is perhaps surprising in such a heavy-weight literary novel.

The trouble is, I had the feeling all along that I was missing something. I worked out the twist very early on, and I suspect it was meant to be obvious. But it didn't work as a thriller in that way, and the very strange structure rather got in the way of the story. I'm not at all sure you're supposed to read it as a story, though! Well, it's certainly not like anything else I've ever read, that's for sure.

Oh, and lethargic_man, I did find the jewels and I understand your .sig now.


Moooood: confusedconfused
Tuuuuune: VNV Nation
Discussion: 1 contribution | Contribute something
Tags:

Previous Entry Next Entry




Contribute something
View all comments chronologically



lethargic_man: reflect
From:lethargic_man
Date:August 14th, 2005 07:03 pm (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry, 08:03 pm (lethargic_man's time)
(Link)
Here there be SOPILERS.

Pale Fire is very weird indeed

True. It was difficult for me to keep up the momentum when the narrative was so broken up. The presentation was too gimmicky for me. OTOH Nabokov was taking on conventions of what constituted a novel, and for sheer innvotation excuses a lot. (If you haven't already read the Index from A-Z, it is worth it; there's extra stuff there, including the open acknowledgement of what I had already suspected, that Kinbote was responsible for all of the variant lines he had presented as Shade's.)

Although it is a classic, I had no idea what it was going to be about when I started reading it, so I initially took it at face value when it claimed it was a commentary on a (fictional) poem. Thus I spent about the first third of the book being entirely confused by being unable to see any obvius connection between the "commentary" and the poem.

I do wonder how Kinbote managed to get his position; he is an appalling academic. :o)

I like the way that both Kinbote and Shade are characterized

Did you find Kinbote a sympathetic character? The introduction talked about him as if he was, but the more I read on, the more I found myself going off the little creep.

The trouble is, I had the feeling all along that I was missing something. I worked out the twist very early on, and I suspect it was meant to be obvious.

Which twist? That Kinbote and the king were the same person was pretty obvious; that the whole Zemblan story was the product of Kinbote's delusions not so at all. There's all manner of other little twists, too, for example Kinbote does not know where the title "Pale Fire" comes from; but he actually quotes the relevant lines of Shakespeare in his commentary to lines 39-40. He just loses the phrase because he's translating back from Zemblan to English.

I did also like the symbolism of the story progressing from Z(embla) to A(ppalachia) by means of a digression through X (Exeter) and Y (New Wye).

Incidentally, what did you think of "Pale Fire" the poem qua poem? I've talked to you before about my difficulty with poetry; because Kinbote was self-evidently a complete idiot, I really was left at somewhat of a loss to say whether "Pale Fire" the poem was any good in the slightest.

But it didn't work as a thriller in that way, and the very strange structure rather got in the way of the story. I'm not at all sure you're supposed to read it as a story, though! Well, it's certainly not like anything else I've ever read, that's for sure.

There's levels and levels there, more than I for one was capable of getting unaided. Fortunately, being a classic, editions of this book generally contain nice introductions pointing out some of the things I missed. And for the rest, there's the Internet. :o)
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)



Contribute something
View all comments chronologically