Pale Fire

Vladimir Nabokov

While Lolita holds fort as Nabokov’s best known novel, Pale Fire rates vaguely higher on the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list. Comprised of a 999-line poem in four cantos by a (fictional) famous American poet, John Shade, as well as a foreword and extensive commentary by his friend, Professor Charles Kinbote, at times it reads very much like a scholarly examination of a poem. Luckily Kinbote has a rather egotistical way of digressing. Because of this, the reader learns all about his fantastic country of Zembla (a European city located in the north, presumably near Russia) and its exiled king.

There are a lot of interpretations (totally spoilers) surrounding whether any of the fictional characters and places are “real” — in the metafictional sense. Which is kind of funny since Nabokov confirmed one theory in an interview in 1962 (cited in that Wikipedia section). It seemed like the clues were pretty obvious to me, though I missed pieces of it.

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