Pale Fire: A Poem in Four Cantos by John Shade

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Overview

Many think Pale Fire is Nabokov's greatest novel. At its heart beats a 999-line poem, penned by its fictional hero, John Shade. This first-ever facsimile edition of the poem shows it to be not just a fictional device but also a masterpiece of American poetry, albeit by an invented persona. In the novel, Shade's mad neighbor, Charles Kinbote, absconds with the poem, compiling an ostensible line-by-line commentary that largely ignores Shade's text and heeds only his own egotism. Kinbote's commentary, the bulk of ...
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Pale Fire

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Overview

Many think Pale Fire is Nabokov's greatest novel. At its heart beats a 999-line poem, penned by its fictional hero, John Shade. This first-ever facsimile edition of the poem shows it to be not just a fictional device but also a masterpiece of American poetry, albeit by an invented persona. In the novel, Shade's mad neighbor, Charles Kinbote, absconds with the poem, compiling an ostensible line-by-line commentary that largely ignores Shade's text and heeds only his own egotism. Kinbote's commentary, the bulk of the novel, is an insane comic triumph of would-be romantic self-celebration that cannot quite mute its undertones of desperation. But in this new publication we rescue the poem from the madman's hand, and provide even-handed commentary on Nabokov's most ambitious poem. Nabokov authority Brian Boyd explains the poem on its and Shade's own terms, comparing its texture with the best of Shakespeare's sonnets. Poet R.S. Gwynn sets it in the context of American poetry of its time. Artist Jean Holabird, who conceived the project, illustrates key details of the poem's pattern and pathos. Now readers can see the text for themselves, fresh from Shade's hands, before Kinbote commandeered it so shamelessly. This attractive box contains two booklets—the poem "Pale Fire" in a hand-some pocket edition and the book of essays by Boyd and Gwynn — as well as facsimiles of the index cards that John Shade (like his maker, Nabokov) used for com­posing his poem, printed exactly as Nabokov described them.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584234319
  • Publisher: Gingko Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 10/28/2011
  • Pages: 50
  • Sales rank: 320,617
  • Product dimensions: 9.96 (w) x 7.34 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Vladimir Nabokov
Readers of Vladimir Nabokov's books might be slightly uncomfortable with them, were they not so awe-inspiring. Nabokov had a penchant for writing about the tragic and the taboo; but his erudite, inventive approach to narration -- buttressed by his formidable academic and cultural intellect -- made him a literary legend.

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.

    6 out of 6 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.

    5 out of 7 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!

    3 out of 4 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 5 people found this review helpful.

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