Pale Fire is an elaborately structured work in which a highly ambiguous “apparatus criticus” becomes a vivid, eccentric work of art. The novel comprises the poem Pale Fire, a 999 line work in four cantos by the late poet John Shade, and a foreword, critical commentary, and index provided by Dr. Charles Kinbote, the poet’s editor and “friend.” Shade’s quietly reflective poem seeks to celebrate the poet’s marriage, to memorialize his dead daughter, and to reflect upon the possibility of an afterlife. As with so much else in the novel, the true identity of Shade’s editor is moot. It is Kinbote’s fixed belief that he goes under an alias and is in fact King Charles II, exiled ruler of the Baltic kingdom of Zembla. According to the delusional narrative reality he offers us, Kinbote/King Charles fled to America and now teaches Zemblan at Wordsmith College, New Wye, the Appalachian university where he has befriended John Shade. Kinbote is persuaded that, after assiduous promptings from himself, Shade has written Pale Fire in order to evoke and celebrate the glories of Zembla: “At length I knew he was ripe with my Zembla, bursting with suitable rhymes, ready to spurt at the brush of an eyelash.”1
KeywordsDefinitive Reality Sole Author Internal Authorship Eccentric Work Tragic Situation
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.