Fantasist's Scroll

Fun, Fiction and Strange Things from the Desk of the Fantasist.


Review: Pale Fire

Filed under: — Posted by the Fantasist during the Hour of the Hare which is terribly early in the morning.
The moon is a First Quarter Moon

I finished Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov over the weekend.
It was an interesting book, though not quite what I expected. The story, as such, is told via an introduction and a series of comments on a poem. The commentor is, or believes he is, the deposed king of an Eastern European country called Zembla. He reviews and annotates a poem, called “Pale Fire”, written by his neighbor and friend in a little, college town named New Wye, where the former king now lives in exile and teaches Zemblan and Zemblan literature to students at the local college. Frankly, it’s a little hard to tell if we are expected to believe that the view-point character is, in fact, a deposed monarch or if he’s just quietly stark, raving mad. There is plenty of evidence for either argument, but, I believe he’s living out some kind of delusion that seemed harmless and charming to his poetic neighbor, who took pity on him and befriended him.
In any case, it was an interesting book and a literary departure for me. It was also not quite what I expected from the author of Lolita. It was far more accessable than I would have thought and, though sex and homosexuality was a minor theme, not as focused on abberant behavior as I feared it might be. The insanity or delusions of the main character were quite subtle and presented in that strange, calm, almost reasonable way that only the truly insane can present their view of the world.
One of the reasons I got this book was for that ficticious kingdom and language. I was a little dissapointed that there wasn’t more Zemblan represented in the book. The few words and phrases were really just there to spice and flavor the created kingdom of Zembla. Still, it does serve as an excellent example of how a little foregin flavor can go a long way. Again, I was impressed with the subtlty with which Nabokov presented his work. He paints his word-pictures with a very fine brush. The tiny details highlight the over-sweeping whole.
So, while it was not exactly “light” reading, Pale Fire was a very pleasant read, especially for a peice of “classic literature”. I heartily reccomend it.

(And, yes, this also appeared, yesterday, on my other blog, Diary of a Network Geek. So sue me!)

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