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PALE FIRE Unknown Binding – January 1, 1964


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Unknown Binding, January 1, 1964

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Product Details

  • Unknown Binding
  • Publisher: NY (1964); First Edition edition (1964)
  • ASIN: B00507MOYI
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,200,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Nabokov household was trilingual, and as a young man, he studied Slavic and romance languages at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his honors degree in 1922. For the next eighteen years he lived in Berlin and Paris, writing prolifically in Russian under the pseudonym Sirin and supporting himself through translations, lessons in English and tennis, and by composing the first crossword puzzles in Russian. In 1925 he married Vera Slonim, with whom he had one child, a son, Dmitri. Having already fled Russia and Germany, Nabokov became a refugee once more in 1940, when he was forced to leave France for the United States. There he taught at Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell. He also gave up writing in Russian and began composing ficticvbn ral books of criticism. Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.

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Customer Reviews

The remainder of the book, about ¾ of the total text, contains Kinbote's notes on the poem.
Brandon Wilkening
Pale Fire is a masterpiece, a novel whose original presentation beautifully conveys a suspenseful story of intrigue, comedy, tragedy--of timeless human truth.
C. Matthew Curtin
While this book probably isn't for everybody, I consider it one of the best novels I have ever read, and I highly recommend reading it.
Brett R

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

155 of 163 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 1, 2000
Format: Paperback
Pale Fire is the name of a 999-line poem in four cantos by the "distinguished American poet" John Shade, published posthumously in a lovingly prepared edition with a foreword and detailed commentary by the Zemblan literary scholar Charles Kinbote. Pale Fire is also the name of the novel by Vladimir Nabokov in which the poem is written by Shade and annotated by Kinbote, who are Nabokov's creations. The novel is actually written in the form of poem and scholarly apparatus, not omitting a thorough index. It is a perfect and perfectly original union of form and meaning. It is also wickedly, outrageously funny.
The poem itself is a complicated, beautiful, mysterious achievement. It reveals the character of John Shade so completely and movingly that we have to keep reminding ourselves that it was actually written by Nabokov, himself. The poem is the heart of the novel, literally and figuratively, although the commentary no doubt constitutes the most interesting reading. Pale Fire is Shade's final work; possibly his greatest work. It is the product of every thought and experience in a long, thoughtful life, and it also contains that entire life: childhood, adolescence, marriage, fatherhood, old age and death. The title refers to the "pale fire of time," and is taken from a poem by Yeats and not from Shakespeare, as Kinbote confidently suggests. Or is Nabokov simply leading us on a merry chase? Better check Timon of Athens to be sure.
And Kinbote is frequently wrong in his confident suggestions in the commentary.
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63 of 65 people found the following review helpful By Scott Esposito on June 8, 2004
Format: Paperback
Pale Fire -- Vladimir Nabokov
It is arguable, and debatable, whether this title or Lolita is Nabokov's masterpiece, but what is certain is that Pale Fire is once of the tightest, best-structured books of the 20th century.
Pale Fire is laid out in three parts: a Foreward written by Charles Kinbote, a Poem written by John Shade, and Commentary, also written by Kinbote.
What is prefigured in the Foreword and then made explicit in the Commentary is Kinbote's strange relationship with Shade and his equally strange past. The story is told completely through the device of the Foreword and Commentary, and in them Kinbote paints himself as a refugee from a despotic regime in a faraway land known only as Zembla. He takes up residence in New Wye, right across the street from professor and poet John Shade.
Once settled in New Wye, Kinbote embarks on an obsessive, mutedly homoerotic relationship with his poet neighbor, courting him when they are together and spying on him the rest of the time. Although Kinbote has fled his native Zembla, he dearly loves his homeland with the pain of one who knows he can never return to the land he has forsaken, and it is his dream that Shade will immortalize Zembla in a poem.
But just as Kinbote reaches for Zembla, so does Zembla reach for Kinbote. In the Commentary Kinbote brings forth a character called Gradus, who is an assassin sent from Zembla to search him out and kill him.
If the Foreword and Commentary tell the story of Kinbote, then the Poem tells the story of Shade. In only 999 lines, Shade paints a vivid picture of his past, taking us through his idyllic life in New Wye, its sudden destruction one night by death of his daughter, and his subsequent coping.
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61 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Marc Cenedella on June 6, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Oh, there is no fanatic like a convert. And Nabokov's writing in the English language bestows his found tongue with rapture. This is Nabokov's finest (I suppose in this 21st century, I just don't find Lolita shocking! shocking! the way its rookie readers must have) and one of the top ten novels of the 20th century.
Surprisingly, you'll find that this book composed of a 999-line poem and the commentary written on that poem by a colleague, has a plot. It is ingenious, twisted, brilliant. One of the most finely crafted works of art ever. I've picked up the word "replete" in relation to art from Steven Pinker, and this work is repleteful. The words, the language, the structure, the social criticism, and most of all, the beauty, as I contemplate and re-contemplate this work, grow ever more replete.
I love this poem. "I was the shadow of the waxwing slain/ In the false azure of the windowpane" and its delicate rhymes and trips and footfalls are savored with every single re-reading. He brings an outsiders perspective to the language with rhymes we don't "see" but hear: "Come and be worshipped, come and be caressed / My dark Vanessa, crimson-barred, my blest" and it sometimes feels like he's introducing you to a new English language.
So who wouldn't like this book, I suppose, should be a question the reviewer should try to answer. Well, I just can't imagine anybody that's ever bought a novel not liking this one, so I suppose if you're a pure non-fiction reader, this ain't for you. And Nabokov is a bit bloodless at times, you won't find the wild, sloppy joy of a Kerouac, or the brawny aggressiveness of a Hemingway, but finely finely crafted and turned and polished words delivered impeccably, perfectly.
Please, please, read Pale Fire. The more of us that carry Nabokov's masterwork in our hearts, the more he will have "lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky"
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