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Like Lolita, 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 Jakob Gradus.
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 biographer, 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
"This centaur work, half-poem, half-prose . . . is a creation of perfect beauty, symmetry, strangeness, originality and moral truth. Pretending to be a curio, it cannot disguise the fact that it is one of the great works of art of this century." --Mary McCarthySee all Editorial Reviews
Designing a collection of clothes based on some of the stanzas in this book!Published 10 days ago by J. Logan
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov is an odd patchwork of literature—part poem, part prose, part criticism, part history, and all fiction. Read morePublished 17 days ago by William D. Hastings
Nabokov is one of the most incredible writers, and Pale fire is a wonderful example of a writer truly understanding and wielding the craft. A MUST-READ.Published 23 days ago by Motiondoctor and Wahust
Witty, imaginative, bristling with weird bright ironies. The book is a novel that pretends to be a commentary, on a thousand-line poem that Nabokov pretends was written by someone... Read morePublished 2 months ago by J. Pfundstein
This review is for the reader who shares my high opinion of the novel and wants to know if it is safe to buy the Kindle edition. Read morePublished 3 months ago by William Adams
Not a spoiler! Just a literary discussion and hopeful it will inspire others to read some or all of Nabokov's works. Read morePublished 3 months ago by #999,999,999+1(me)
Hands down, one of my favorite works of fiction. Nabokov takes his classic "unreliable narrator" and twists him even further, creating a dark, haunting nest of lies and... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Sei Shonagon
Best writing of 20th c at least - this is dense but once you're there it's hypnotic and obsessesPublished 3 months ago by Downtown Pearl
Nabokov writes so well. His words flow or stick together so effortlessly. But at times his sink into the mire of strain, losing their way (oh Pale Fire!). Read morePublished 4 months ago by K.N.R.