Pale Fire

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Overview

In Pale Fire Nabokov offers a cornucopia of deceptive pleasures: a 999-line poem by the reclusive genius John Shade; an adoring foreword and commentary by Shade's self-styled Boswell, Dr. Charles Kinbote; a darkly comic novel of suspense, literary idolatry and one-upmanship, and political intrigue.

Published in 1962, Pale Fire is an experimental synthesis of poetry and prose that displays Nabokov's mastery of unorthodox structure.

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Pale Fire

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Overview

In Pale Fire Nabokov offers a cornucopia of deceptive pleasures: a 999-line poem by the reclusive genius John Shade; an adoring foreword and commentary by Shade's self-styled Boswell, Dr. Charles Kinbote; a darkly comic novel of suspense, literary idolatry and one-upmanship, and political intrigue.

Published in 1962, Pale Fire is an experimental synthesis of poetry and prose that displays Nabokov's mastery of unorthodox structure.

The novel is a 999-line poem in heroic couplets plus commentary. Both were composed -- according to Nabokov's fiction -- by an insane pedant, John Francis Shade, during the last 20 days of his life.

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Editorial Reviews

Rosenbaum
The Edgy Enthusiast's novel of the Century: My award goes to Nabakov's Pale Fire...the most Shakespearean work of art the 20'th century has produced, the only prose fiction that offers Shakespearean levels of depth and complexity, of beauty, tragedy, and inexhaustible mystery...reading Pale Fire, both novel and poem, is an almost obscenely sensual pleasure, I guarantee it...let me make the following assertion: Not only is Pale Fire the Novel of the Century, but "Pale Fire," the poem within the nove may well come to be looked upon as the Poem of the Century as well.

The New York Observer

From the Publisher
"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 McCarthy
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780425093221
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 7/1/1968
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Nabokovs were known for their high culture and commitment to public service, and the elder Nabokov was an outspoken opponent of antisemitism and one of the leaders of the opposition party, the Kadets. In 1919, following the Bolshevik revolution, he took his family into exile. Four years later he was shot and killed at a political rally in Berlin while trying to shield the speaker from right-wing assassins.

The Nabokov household was trilingual, and as a child Nabokov was already reading Wells, Poe, Browning, Keats, Flaubert, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Tolstoy, and Chekhov, alongside the popular entertainments of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne. 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 fiction in English. In his afterword to Lolita he claimed: "My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody's concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English, devoid of any of those apparatuses–the baffling mirror, the black velvet backdrop, the implied associations and traditions–which the native illusionist, frac-tails flying, can magically use to transcend the heritage in his own way." [p. 317] Yet Nabokov's American period saw the creation of what are arguably his greatest works, Bend Sinister (1947), Lolita (1955), Pnin (1957), and Pale Fire (1962), as well as the translation of his earlier Russian novels into English. He also undertook English translations of works by Lermontov and Pushkin and wrote several books of criticism. Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.

From the Hardcover edition.

Biography

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Nabokovs were known for their high culture and commitment to public service, and the elder Nabokov was an outspoken opponent of antisemitism and one of the leaders of the opposition party, the Kadets. In 1919, following the Bolshevik revolution, he took his family into exile. Four years later he was shot and killed at a political rally in Berlin while trying to shield the speaker from right-wing assassins.

The Nabokov household was trilingual, and as a child Nabokov was already reading Wells, Poe, Browning, Keats, Flaubert, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Tolstoy, and Chekhov, alongside the popular entertainments of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne. 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 fiction in English. In his afterword to Lolita he claimed: "My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody's concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English, devoid of any of those apparatuses -- the baffling mirror, the black velvet backdrop, the implied associations and traditions -- which the native illusionist, frac-tails flying, can magically use to transcend the heritage in his own way." [p. 317] Yet Nabokov's American period saw the creation of what are arguably his greatest works, Bend Sinister (1947), Lolita (1955), Pnin (1957), and Pale Fire (1962), as well as the translation of his earlier Russian novels into English. He also undertook English translations of works by Lermontov and Pushkin and wrote several books of criticism. Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.

Author biography courtesy of Random House, Inc.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Vladimir Sirin
    1. Date of Birth:
      April 23, 1899
    2. Place of Birth:
      St. Petersburg, Russia
    1. Date of Death:
      July 2, 1977
    2. Place of Death:
      Montreux, Switzerland

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 18 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2003

    'You can't handle the truth!'

    Never have I despised a novel's protagonist more than I do the excruciating Charles Kinbote as he dragged me through his interpretation, and subsequent self-promoting butchery, of his 'dear friend's' poem. So much so that I regularly had to remind myself that it wasn't real. And that's one of the great things about this book; whilst reading it we spend so much time wondering whether Kinbote is telling the truth or not that we forget that none of it's real at all. I got the distinct impression that I was being led to jump through hoops by Nabakov, whilst he sat back and laughed. In so far as I'm fit to judge, this is a work of true genius.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 27, 2003

    A Cornerstone of Meta-Literature

    Pale Fire is a novel obsessed with the relation between fiction and truth, text and life, that which is read and that which is experienced. It is unfortunate that Nabokov is known almost exclusively for Lolita (quite possibly his least interesting and most pedestrian work), when such novels as The Defense, Pnin, and Pale Fire go unnoticed by most readers. Pale Fire, a challenging and exceedingly deep book, is one of the finest examples in any language of exploring the reader's relationship to a novel. In a mature, exact fashion, Nabokov uses this book to not only tell a fascinating story to his audience, but also to show how that story is both true, a lie, an experience, a dream, an epic poem, and possibly something even more amorphous than that. Recommended to anyone you wishes for more than simple entertainment or cheap thrill in their reading.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2008

    If you are a lover of language this is your masterpiece

    Although I desperately needed to keep reading this story, I needed just as much to stop, close my eyes, shake my head, tilt it back and smile a broad smile of worshipful delight at Vladimir Nabokov doing it again, giving me just what I wanted when I wanted it. He lets you into his private mind, and I feel privileged!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 22, 2006

    Nabokov and Zembla

    Nabokov creates a strange masterpiece that even surpasses LOLITA.Maybe the strangest most original book of the 1960s Nabokov makes us question every thing. Just explaining the plot is questionable but nabokovs writing is fantastic,his story and his unreliable characters are great.His work has lasted from the 1920s to the 1970s and included many great books and his opuses are LOLITA and PALE FIRE,LOLITA is very close to being his best but PALE FIRE is his crowning achivement.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2012

    Trainer

    What is it.^_^

    0 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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