Modern Fiction: Pale Fire, by Vladimir Nabokov

Pale Fire is the most fascinating novel of the 20th century. Maybe. I get into trouble when I say things like that. And I haven’t read as much as I ought. But Pale Fire is work of genius unlike any I’ve encountered. The book is a mystery – not the story, but the book itself. Its interpretation and the central question of the narrator’s true identity – and how much of what he says is true – has been the subject of fierce and largely pointless debate: Nabokov later explained the situation, but that hasn’t stopped a number of critics from claiming he misunderstood his own work & coming up with alternate readings.

Critics aren’t even sure how the book should be read ordinally – that is, in what order the pages should be consumed. This interesting and amusing question is a result of the book’s structure – the novel is contained in the endnote commentary on a substantial poem, supposedly the final work of a Robert Frostian poet named John Shade. The commentary, as well as a forward preceding the poem and a full index following the commentary, are the work of a madman college professor who, by a bizarre string of events, secured the right to edit and publish the poem. He believes himself to be the deposed King of a distant (eastern Scandinavian?) land called Zembla, and uses his notes on Shade’s poem to tell the story of his own overthrow and escape to America, which he believes is what the poem should actually have been written about.

Interwoven with the King’s story is another narrative about the man sent from Zembla to assassinate him. (The King now lives under a pseudonym teaching at a New England university and living next door to Shade.) The assassin crashes into the world of the poem itself on the day Shade finishes its last line but one, and murders not the King but Shade. The police report to the effect that the murderer had escaped from a nearby institute for the criminally insane and had come to kill the judge who put him there, for whom he mistook Shade, the “King” narrator dismisses as a malicious fabrication.

Nabokov writes a maniacally thorough picture of Zembla (which may or may not be “real” in the frame of the novel – the reader is left to work this out). Zembla has its own language, genealogy, geography and history. This isn’t unusual for a semi-fantastic novel – but the depth of the fiction is. Each name, phrase and linguistic conjuration is saturated with multiple meanings and playful allusion; each has its place in the story, in the larger fictitious world beyond the story, and in the actual world of literature beyond Nabokov’s book. The construction is ferociously, demonically intricate. A knowledge of Russian and French, and of literature and poetry – especially Joyce, Pope and Shakespeare – will come in handy. (The Library of America edition includes helpful endnotes of its own, but these are hardly complete.) As it is, I can only skim the surface. But I have a sense of having glimpsed something extraordinary, almost superhuman.

Enjoyability: 10/10

Engagingness: 10/10

Prose: 10/10

Overall Goodness Rating (OGR): 10/10

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov. First published 1962, 224 pages.  This edition, Library of America, 1996.

1,077 thoughts on “Modern Fiction: Pale Fire, by Vladimir Nabokov

  1. Pingback: cialis online
  2. Pingback: is cialis generic
  3. Pingback: cialis black
  4. Pingback: US viagra sales
  5. Pingback: Canada meds viagra
  6. Pingback: generic ventolin
  7. Pingback: buy ciprofloxacin
  8. Pingback: cialis on line
  9. Pingback: buy cialis online
  10. Pingback: online cialis
  11. Pingback: buy tylenol online
  12. Pingback: viagra 100mg price
  13. Pingback: chloroquine virus
  14. Pingback: viagra 100mg
  15. Pingback: cheapest ed pills
  16. Pingback: cialis mastercard
  17. Pingback: Real cialis online
  18. Pingback: online vardenafil
  19. Pingback: levitra pills
  20. Pingback: online levitra
  21. Pingback: buy cheap cialis
  22. Pingback: sildenafil 20 mg
  23. Pingback: cialis online
  24. Pingback: loan online
  25. Pingback: installment loans
  26. Pingback: levitra or viagra
  27. Pingback: viagra for sale
  28. Pingback: real online casino
  29. Pingback: cialis to buy
  30. Pingback: cialis internet
  31. Pingback: cialis internet
  32. Pingback: generic cialis
  33. Pingback: cialis buy
  34. Pingback: casino world
  35. Pingback: online casino usa
  36. Pingback: order viagra
  37. Pingback: viagra buy
  38. Pingback: brand viagra
  39. Pingback: online viagra
  40. Pingback: buy viagra canada
  41. Pingback: Yeezy 350 V2
  42. Pingback: Yeezy
  43. Pingback: Timberland UK
  44. Pingback: UGG
  45. Pingback: Adidas Yeezy
  46. Pingback: Yeezy
  47. Pingback: Yeezy
  48. Pingback: Timberland
  49. Pingback: UGG Outlet
  50. Pingback: UGGS Outlet
  51. Pingback: cialistodo.com
  52. Pingback: Viagra 120mg usa
  53. Pingback: Viagra 200mg price
  54. Pingback: buy Viagra 25mg
  55. Pingback: Viagra 25mg coupon
  56. Pingback: buy viagra online
  57. Pingback: buy cialis online
  58. Pingback: Cialis 80mg tablet
  59. Pingback: cheap Cialis 60 mg
  60. Pingback: sildenafil
  61. Pingback: buy generic cialis
  62. Pingback: cheap Cialis 20 mg
  63. Pingback: cialis
  64. Pingback: generic viagra
  65. Pingback: levitra 10 mg nz
  66. Pingback: viagra pills
  67. Pingback: arava 10 mg pills
  68. Pingback: Anonymous
  69. Pingback: arimidex 1mg cheap
  70. Pingback: atarax 25mg usa
  71. Pingback: viagra vs cialis
  72. Pingback: buy viagra online
  73. Pingback: cardizem prices
  74. Pingback: casodex coupon
  75. Pingback: catapres cost
  76. Pingback: cheap cipro 250mg
  77. Pingback: claritin pills
  78. Pingback: online casinos usa
  79. Pingback: doubleu casino
  80. Pingback: buy generic drugs
  81. Pingback: slot machine games
  82. Pingback: casinos online
  83. Pingback: online casinos usa
  84. Pingback: slot machine games
  85. Pingback: rivers casino
  86. Pingback: buy cialis
  87. Pingback: au cialis
  88. Pingback: usa payday loans
  89. Pingback: buy cialis
  90. Pingback: buy levitra 20mg
  91. Pingback: cbd oil 300mg
  92. Pingback: cbd oil dogs
  93. Pingback: Pfizer viagra 50mg
  94. Pingback: best essay writer
  95. Pingback: sildenafil mexico
  96. Pingback: buy cleocin 150mg
  97. Pingback: clomid 25 mg cost
  98. Pingback: usa cialis online
  99. Pingback: clonidine otc
  100. Pingback: Discount viagra
  101. Pingback: viagra last longer
  102. Pingback: coreg 25mg usa
  103. Pingback: generic cialis
  104. Pingback: thesis help online
  105. Pingback: viagra capsules
  106. Pingback: custom made essays
  107. Pingback: cheap viagra
  108. Pingback: ddavp price
  109. Pingback: differin usa
  110. Pingback: cost of diltiazem
  111. Pingback: elavil 50mg nz
  112. Pingback: etodolac nz
  113. Pingback: generic Amoxil
  114. Pingback: how to buy geodon
  115. Pingback: drugs for ed
  116. Pingback: buy imdur 40mg
  117. Pingback: imodium 2mg otc
  118. Pingback: blog link
  119. Pingback: see this site
  120. Pingback: viagra alternative
  121. Pingback: lamisil coupon
  122. Pingback: buy viagra online
  123. Pingback: viagra hq toronto
  124. Pingback: Glucophage SR
  125. Pingback: Eldepryl
  126. Pingback: Zovirax
  127. Pingback: motrin 600mg usa
  128. Pingback: Super Avana
  129. Pingback: periactin purchase
  130. Pingback: procardia pharmacy
  131. Pingback: viagra otc
  132. Pingback: proscar online
  133. Pingback: viagra
  134. Pingback: viagra montreal
  135. Pingback: cheapest remeron
  136. Pingback: benadryl online
  137. Pingback: buy retin-a cream
  138. Pingback: singulair pharmacy
  139. Pingback: skelaxin 400mg otc
  140. Pingback: 100mg viagra
  141. Pingback: viagra coupons
  142. Pingback: vantin cheap
  143. Pingback: voltaren purchase
  144. Pingback: zanaflex online
  145. Pingback: next
  146. Pingback: Learn More Here
  147. Pingback: zocor canada
  148. Pingback: zovirax 400mg cost
  149. Pingback: zyprexa australia
  150. Pingback: price for viagra
  151. Pingback: tadalafil 40mg nz
  152. Pingback: cheap aripiprazole
  153. Pingback: order leflunomide
  154. Pingback: buy donepezil 10mg
  155. Pingback: sildenafil generic
  156. Pingback: cefuroxime nz
  157. Pingback: cialis ordering
  158. Pingback: cialis generic
  159. Pingback: cialis sale 20mg
  160. Pingback: order desmopressin
  161. Pingback: buy cialis rush
  162. Pingback: oxybutynin otc
  163. Pingback: doxycycline price
  164. Pingback: viagra generic
  165. Pingback: permethrin 30g usa
  166. Pingback: pnkxjvjd
  167. Pingback: generic tadalafil
  168. Pingback: estradiol usa
  169. Pingback: the best ed pills
  170. Pingback: mbgjbxfx
  171. Pingback: fluticasone mcg uk
  172. Pingback: medications for ed
  173. Pingback: cialis soft tablet
  174. Pingback: buy nitrofurantoin
  175. Pingback: lasix tablet
  176. Pingback: order viagra soft
  177. Pingback: ceftin online
  178. Pingback: precio del cialis
  179. Pingback: cialis coupons
  180. Pingback: cialis coupon
  181. Pingback: essay help
  182. Pingback: buy lamotrigine
  183. Pingback: 100mg viagra
  184. Pingback: metoprolol pills
  185. Pingback: doxycycline goodrx
  186. Pingback: define clomid
  187. Pingback: dapoxetine dragon
  188. Pingback: diflucan relief
  189. Pingback: order ed pills
  190. Pingback: best essay writer
  191. Pingback: propecia sperm
  192. Pingback: cialis 6
  193. Pingback: metformin medicine
  194. Pingback: side effects paxil
  195. Pingback: canadianpharmacy
  196. Pingback: cialis pills
  197. Pingback: propecia pills
  198. Pingback: ed treatment pills
  199. Pingback: cialis canada
  200. Pingback: best pills for ed
  201. Pingback: 90 furosemide
  202. Pingback: pharmacy online
  203. Pingback: Zakhar Berkut
  204. Pingback: Aggrenox caps
  205. Pingback: 4569987
  206. Pingback: cialis daily use
  207. Pingback: buy cialis drug
  208. Pingback: news news news
  209. Pingback: psy2022
  210. Pingback: projectio-freid
  211. Pingback: generic viagra
  212. Pingback: kinoteatrzarya.ru
  213. Pingback: topvideos
  214. Pingback: video
  215. Pingback: lisinopril india
  216. Pingback: Ukrainskie-serialy
  217. Pingback: site
  218. Pingback: cialis dapoxetine
  219. Pingback: top
  220. Pingback: valtrex 2000 mg
  221. Pingback: cytotmeds.com
  222. Pingback: podolsk-region.ru
  223. Pingback: plaquenil hives
  224. Pingback: plaquenil price us
  225. Pingback: ivermectin oral
  226. Pingback: mens ed
  227. Pingback: treat ed
  228. Pingback: drug pharmacy
  229. Pingback: cialis generico
  230. Pingback: dosing for priligy
  231. Pingback: zoloft medication
  232. Pingback: lyrica cr
  233. Pingback: cymbalta and xanax
  234. Pingback: canadian viagra
  235. Pingback: ivermectin canada
  236. Pingback: www.viagrahati.com
  237. Pingback: viagra price
  238. Pingback: order viagra
  239. Pingback: cialis orange pill
  240. Pingback: effexor vs lexapro
  241. Pingback: buy cialis pills
  242. Pingback: womens viagra
  243. Pingback: 1
  244. Pingback: brand cialis
  245. Pingback: cialis 2 mg
  246. Pingback: viagra cost
  247. Pingback: purchase viagra
  248. Pingback: clomid coupon
  249. Pingback: ivermectin buy nz
  250. Pingback: ivermectin price
  251. Pingback: viagra pill
  252. Pingback: propecia 2020
  253. Pingback: 5443 prednisone
  254. Pingback: buy sildenafil
  255. Pingback: female viagra usa
  256. Pingback: viagra man
  257. Pingback: ivermectin pour on
  258. Pingback: cialis 5
  259. Pingback: ivermectin pour on
  260. Pingback: ventolin pi
  261. Pingback: viagra sildenafil
  262. Pingback: cialis avis
  263. Pingback: generic ed pills
  264. Pingback: sildenafil 20mg
  265. Pingback: pills for ed
  266. Pingback: female viagra
  267. Pingback: pct nolvadex
  268. Pingback: prednisone 30
  269. Pingback: ivermectin 3 mg
  270. Pingback: ivermectin generic
  271. Pingback: ivermectin 10 ml
  272. Pingback: buying viagra
  273. Pingback: canadian drugs
  274. Pingback: roman viagra
  275. Pingback: levitra vs viagra
  276. Pingback: ivermectin rx
  277. Pingback: ivermectin 50 mg
  278. Pingback: amoxicillin online
  279. Pingback: ivermectin gel
  280. Pingback: neurontin sale
  281. Pingback: online pharmacy
  282. Pingback: 25 mg prednisone
  283. Pingback: 164 avana
  284. Pingback: provigil cost
  285. Pingback: viagra prices
  286. Pingback: ivermectin 500ml
  287. Pingback: combivent cheap
  288. Pingback: doctor x viagra
  289. Pingback: buy furosimide
  290. Pingback: viagra coupon
  291. Pingback: priligy india
  292. Pingback: valtrex cost
  293. Pingback: buy valtrex
  294. Pingback: low price viagra
  295. Pingback: viagra and cialis
  296. Pingback: generic viagra
  297. Pingback: plaquenil 100mg
  298. Pingback: otc viagra
  299. Pingback: viagra amazon
  300. Pingback: viagra for sale
  301. Pingback: viagra 25mg price
  302. Pingback: generic plaquenil
  303. Pingback: ivermectin 90 mg
  304. Pingback: stromectol 0.5 mg
  305. Pingback: ivermectin brand
  306. Pingback: how to cure ed
  307. Pingback: cialis mexico
  308. Pingback: roman cialis
  309. Pingback: ivermectin ebay
  310. Pingback: Duphaston
  311. Pingback: Cephalexin
  312. Pingback: meritroyalbet
  313. Pingback: elexusbet
  314. Pingback: meritking
  315. Pingback: meritking
  316. Pingback: eurocasino
  317. Pingback: madridbet
  318. Pingback: ivermectin generic
  319. Pingback: eurocasino
  320. Pingback: trcasino
  321. Pingback: elexusbet
  322. Pingback: ventolin uk buy
  323. Pingback: stromectol oral
  324. Pingback: tadalafil femme
  325. Pingback: stromectol uk buy
  326. Pingback: trcasino
  327. Pingback: tombala siteleri
  328. Pingback: tombala siteleri
  329. Pingback: tombala siteleri
  330. Pingback: vardenafil
  331. Pingback: flccc ivermectin
  332. Pingback: flccc ivermectin
  333. Pingback: latisse serum
  334. Pingback: bimatoprost
  335. Pingback: cheap nolvadex
  336. Pingback: buy clomid 25mg
  337. Pingback: Mentax
  338. Pingback: meritroyalbet
  339. Pingback: meritroyalbet
  340. Pingback: meritroyalbet
  341. Pingback: Anonymous
  342. Pingback: molnupiravir 400mg
  343. Pingback: malnupiravir
  344. Pingback: ivermectin buy
  345. Pingback: stromectol otc
  346. Pingback: generic stromectol
  347. Pingback: stromectol 3 mg
  348. Pingback: ivermectin iv
  349. Pingback: Anonymous
  350. Pingback: buy stromectol
  351. Pingback: ivermectin ontario
  352. Pingback: ivermectin kaufen
  353. Pingback: ivermectin
  354. Pingback: madridbet
  355. Pingback: meritking
  356. Pingback: buy cialis online
  357. Pingback: meritroyalbet
  358. Pingback: provigil online uk
  359. Pingback: ivermectin 1 cream
  360. Pingback: stromectol oral
  361. Pingback: viagra pfizer
  362. Pingback: ivermectin
  363. Pingback: tadalafil otc
  364. Pingback: levitra doses
  365. Pingback: baymavi
  366. Pingback: tadalafil daily
  367. Pingback: baymavi
  368. Pingback: driponin online
  369. Pingback: sildenafil citrate
  370. Pingback: tombala siteleri
  371. Pingback: cialis best price
  372. Pingback: 1coastal
  373. Pingback: 2courtesy
  374. Pingback: generic for cialis
  375. Pingback: tadalafil peptides
  376. Pingback: meritroyalbet
  377. Pingback: ivermectin tablets
  378. Pingback: generic
  379. Pingback: win casino online
  380. Pingback: ivermectin 6
  381. Pingback: casino game
  382. Pingback: cialis cost 20mg
  383. Pingback: cialis online
  384. Pingback: stromectol oral
  385. Pingback: ivermectin online
  386. Pingback: cialis tadalafil
  387. Pingback: stromectol tab 3mg
  388. Pingback: furosemide pills
  389. Pingback: lasix 2.5 mg
  390. Pingback: ivermectin 18mg
  391. Pingback: stromectol otc
  392. Pingback: ivermectine buy
  393. Pingback: cialis reddit
  394. Pingback: madridbet giriş
  395. Pingback: luckylands
  396. Pingback: buy cialis india
  397. Pingback: hydroxychloroquine
  398. Pingback: stromectol price
  399. Pingback: ivermectin to buy
  400. Pingback: cialis at walmart
  401. Pingback: clomid 25mg
  402. Pingback: stromectol
  403. Pingback: ed pills otc
  404. Pingback: cialis otc
  405. Pingback: treatments for ed
  406. Pingback: pharmacy online
  407. Pingback: cialis pharmacy
  408. Pingback: ivermectin cost uk
  409. Pingback: bahis siteleri
  410. Pingback: hdorg2.ru
  411. Pingback: ivermectin cost uk
  412. Pingback: UKRAINE
  413. Pingback: buying tadalafil
  414. Pingback: Anonymous
  415. Pingback: Anonymous
  416. Pingback: cleantalkorg2.ru
  417. Pingback: filmgoda.ru
  418. Pingback: A片
  419. Pingback: porno}
  420. Pingback: video-2
  421. Pingback: grandpashabet