Pale Fire

Pale Fire

by Vladimir Nabokov


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679723424
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/28/1989
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 55,094
Product dimensions: 5.12(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.70(d)

About 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.

Date of Birth:

April 23, 1899

Date of Death:

July 2, 1977

Place of Birth:

St. Petersburg, Russia

Place of Death:

Montreux, Switzerland


Trinity College, Cambridge, 1922

Read an Excerpt

INTRODUCUTION by Richard Rorty

Excerpted from "Pale Fire"
by .
Copyright © 1989 Vladimir Nabokov.
Excerpted by permission of Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Mary McCarthy

This centaur work, half-poem, half-prose. . .is the 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.

John Updike

Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically.

Customer Reviews

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Pale Fire 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
catherar on LibraryThing 2 days ago
I never could have imagined a poem and its subsequent (and lengthy) review to be so rivetting, haunting, and delightful! This is a most creative book, down to its very structure. Nabokov is a genius. There is nothing more to say.. except, read it!
librarianbryan on LibraryThing 2 days ago
A very thought provoking read, but a lot of style and (maybe) not a lot of substance. I needed a lot of outside sources to decode of the games Nabokov was playing. Intensely funny though.
flyingdutchman on LibraryThing 3 months ago
I first read this novel two years ago. While certainly appreciating it back then it struck me on more levels when reading it now, anno 2007. The many subtle references and puns can only be followed upon rereading; something Nabokov must have purposely designed.Pale Fire is one of the more difficult novels I've ever read, but if you adhere to someone's famous motto "stay the course" you"ll find some nice treasures at the bottom of the rainbow. Especially recommended for readers interested in Postmodern fiction, cybertext and literary criticism.
pickwick817 on LibraryThing 3 months ago
This is another one of those books labelled a classic where it appears to me that the author is weaving a puzzle, or adding complexity to the very idea of reading or writing to give the reader several levels to think about. Interesting, I'll give it that.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
manbooker1989 More than 1 year ago
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!). The story is of Shade and his sedentary life; of little child and grieving wife. The poem, I think is the best part, aesthetically speaking; but the commentary is also held in high regard, focusing on the "editor's" relationship and his own life: more of a self-commentary than poem-analysis. But Nabokov surprises the reader with ingenious lines and the usual philosophical introspections of life, death, the such. But, all the same, very enjoyable.
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What is it.^_^