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File:Pale fire 670.gif
For better or worse, it is the commentator who has the last word.
Professor Charles Kinbote

Pale Fire is a 1962 novel by Vladimir Nabokov. It ostensibly concerns a 999 line poem by nationally famous poet John Shade, which appears in the book with extensive commentary by Shade's neighbor and fellow professor Charles Kinbote. Once the commentary gets underway however, it is clear Kinbote's interpretation differs wildly from the information available in the poem itself, which is soon eclipsed by the mad, paranoid, telescoping story that emerges from Kinbote's intrusion. Shade is unavailable to correct the work, having been shot moments before by a man who was likely trying to kill someone else entirely.

As inconsistencies in the narrative begin to pile up, more and more of the novel's premises become suspect, and the reader navigates through multiple layers of reality formed by variable amounts of truth and lies, while simultaneously navigating Kinbote's labyrinthine footnotes that allow the book to be read in any order the reader chooses.

Likewise, the story can be read any way the reader chooses (though not every layer of reality is created equal): as an exile's loving capsule of his vanished homeland, an international political thriller, a sad portrait of a lonely madman, a parent's ode to his dead child, or a scathing satire of academia.

According to The Other Wiki: "The interaction between Kinbote and Shade takes place in the fictitious small college town of New Wye, Appalachia, where they live across a lane from each other, from February to July, 1959. Kinbote writes his commentary from then to October, 1959, in a tourist cabin in the equally fictitious western town of Cedarn, Utana."


The novel provides examples of:

Notes

  1. a distant northern land
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