Terry's Reviews > Pale Fire

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
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's review
Jan 31, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: literature, postmodern, 2012, audiobook, fiction

My dislike for mostmodernism stems from a deep dislike for using the wonderful as an ingredient in the putrid. Why write a perfectly lovely book only to chop it up and create some work of metafiction? That seemed to me like preparing duck confit and then grinding it down to make sausage. After completing Pale Fire, I have updating my disgust to mere suspicion as Nabokov almost flawlessly executes a book about a book in a book.

Narration - The plot has four strands to it, consisting of the titular text, "Pale Fire", a 1000-line poem, the commentary of the reviewer about the author and his life, the exiled king, and the hapless assassin. I wouldn't call these threads interwoven so much as related. As the book progresses, we learn that the narrator isn't as sharp as he thinks and mistranslates and misunderstands common English phrases. We learn about his possibly imaginary home nation, its king, and the attempts to kill that king. By the end, the narrator may not prove reliable and the veracity of his commentary begins to unravel not in madness and confusion but in curiosity.

The Two Texts - The poem itself, Pale Fire, I found quite enjoyable. While it is partly feedstock for the narrator, it stands on its own as a presentable long-form poem that's technically well executed and is worthy of reading.

Meta-Elements - As much as I thought the piece was well executed, I don't feel I come away with anything. In the obvious errors of the narrator we get a glimpse of the errors biographers and commentators make as well as the alienness of other cultures but little else. I rarely enjoy books where the author is saying "look what I can do". Maybe I didn't mind it here because I felt it was more Nabokov saying "look what can be done". I wonder how much credit he should receive for the invention of hypertext.

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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Scott (new)

Scott Hey I have a question. Is this book explicit? Moreover, sexually explicit? Thanks

Terry No, not that I recall.

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