315 pages Reissue
edition (April 1989)
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
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
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
an Elaborate Spoof, Nabokov Takes Us to the Never-Never Land of Zembla
By GEORGE CLOYNE
Sunday, May 27, 1962
Vladimir Nabokov is an obsessive. He arrived in the United States
some twenty-two years ago, bringing with him intellectual baggage
as firmly limited in weight as the forty pounds of the air travelerŐs
suitcase. There is nothing the matter with that. To be forcible,
ideas need not to be heavy. The point is that, Mr. Nabokov, equipped
with a set of admirable notions, has been parsimonious in adding
to them: just how parsimonious his new novel will show. [read
- The Nabokov Butterfly Net - about Nabokov, his life, works,
and other information for nabokophiles and nabokovians.
Remembering Nabokov - 1999 celebration of the author, including
biography, archive of reviews and related Time Magazine articles,
and an in-depth look at Lolita.
102 Lolita Page - from the University of Arizona. Includes
Links, multimedia, student essays, etc.
Typography and New Media - during the IAP of 1996 and 1997,
students created an experimental "book" using Nabokov's short
story "Signs and Symbols", by using the nature of reading on the
computer to create expressive typography and reading structures
that were metaphoric to some theme or themes in the story.
& Times: Vladimir Nabokov - from The New York Times. Includes
interviews, review archive, forum, and audio clips. Registration
Monthly: Lolita - read this classic 1958 review of the novel
that scandalized the literary world.
Homais Nods - Nabokov's fallibility, or, how to revise Lolita.
Phallus - by Vadim Linetski.
The Poerotic Novel - book review by Maurice Couturier.
York Times: Time Has Been Kind to the Nymphet - by Erica Jong.
A reflection on Lolita, thirty years after its initial publication.
Audio: Vladimir Nabokov - audio of Jeremy Irons reading from
Butterflies - The Atlantic Monthly presents previously unpublished
work, fictional and scientific, by the novelist and distinguished
- Vladimir Nabokov
Russian - in Russian.
- information on and links to the Russian-American novelist, featuring
Nabokovilia, a collection of quotes from other writers on Nabokov.