A 999 line poem in heroic couplets, divided into 4 cantos, was composed--according to Nabokov's fiction--by John Francis Shade, an obsessively methodical man, during the last 20 days of his life.
©1962 Vera Nabokov and Dmitri Nabokov (P)2010 Audible, Inc
"This centaur-work, half poem, half prose . . . is a creation of perfect beauty, symmetry, strangeness, originality and moral truth. Pretending to be a curio, it cannot disguise the fact that it is one of the great works of art of this century." (Mary McCarthy, The New Republic)
"Of all [Nabokov's] inventions, Pale Fire is the wildest, the funniest and the most earnest. It is like nothing on God's earth." (New York Herald Tribune)
"A monstrous, witty, intricately entertaining work . . . done with dazzling skill." (Time)
I listened to this after having reread the book, which I first read when it was published (and disliked). This time I found it far more palatable. I can't imagine, though, what it would be like for someone who hadn't already read the book to listen to it. My opinionated opinion: The reading is wonderful. As for the book, the poem is a craftsmanlike and interesting one; the commentary, which occupies the largest part of the book, is immensely clever in the expected Nabokovian way, attributes many of Nabokov's prejudices to the ostensible narrator, Charles Kinbote, but fails for this reader because the story that narrator alludes to in the commentary, that of the birth, upbringing and exile of Charles Xavier, King of the Zemblans, is just not interesting.
This is an excellently audiobook, the best one I've listened to. The narrators of the book really brought out the characters Nabokov created. I've listened to this audiobook probably four full times. And I'm certain that I'll listen to it again.
Marc Vietor's performance is excellent. However, the structure of this book is the line-by-line examination of a poem, including many references to previous notes. Enjoyment of this book would escalate in the hardcopy format which would allow the reader to easily flip back to find and reread the poem as the commentary progresses and thereby fully appreciate the humor and craziness of the commentator as well as the cleverness of the author.
The two different narrators aided in the enjoyment of the story. I especially liked the main narrator with his appropriate accent. The story is artful and complex. Some parts of the poem were very moving. I found the end index portion brilliant. The subtle summary was hilarious.
I was excited about the reviews I read about this book, and thought it must be unusual and interesting. It WAS very unusual. Interesting? I guess the book is just not for everyone. It wasn't for me.
I did enjoy the poem, which is a rather small part of the book. And it's certainly an interestingly structured book, as the poem is used as a conceit to tell a broader story of a poet and his neighbor, who is our narrator, and ultimate publisher (and critic) of the poem. The story is really about the narrator, describing his role in the writing of the poem, and his attempts to get close to and influence the poet.
But it's really not about that. In the end, the story seems to come together, and finally, for me, made some sense. But I felt that when I listened to this book (I listen in segments when I am at the gym) I kept wondering "WHY am I sticking this out?" It rambled on and on, and it was a struggle to stay focused on the story. There were places where parts of stories would become interesting, but then I would suddenly lose the thread and wonder if my attention had shifted and I'd somehow missed a whole part of the book! In part, this might be because there are imaginary characters in imaginary places, from imaginary countries, and parallel stories going on at the same time that seem to shift back and forth.
For me, the book mostly drones on and on, providing the merest snippets of what's actually going on, and until the end very little fit together at all.
I see that others very much enjoy the clever word play and the challenge of following the tale and the characters, but I guess it's just not for everyone. I even suffered through the index at the end, which was in part because I really couldn't believe that this was included in the audiobook version, so there must be some meaningful surprise (or reward) coming. There wasn't. I think this might work better in print, where one could cross reference and even use the index to figure out who was who, and how they fit into the story.
For me, this was one VERY tedious book.
Pediatrician. Classics, Literary Fiction and SciFi lover"
This poem/novel/tirade (?!) is that teacher's pet we all knew who was always shouting out all the answers and was always a bit off and totally oblivious to how we all felt about them.
During my years designing ladies apparel and traveling world wide I discovered a great joy in meeting many cultures and grew to love them.
With all certainty, T am sure it will lead to greater things by Nabokov.
The reading of the Cantos Poem and the reader,s display of his great voice, all of Audible's telling of this great book is wonderful, for sure magic.
There is not a particular scene of merit, Nabokov goes on and on and each momemt if studied is a thrill in each novel he creates.
I read this book very much younger, like with Lolita I could not find the pace of the information, now as my experience in the library increased, I love his writing. One must understand Nabokov, he teases one for reaction only, which he knows a studied reader will enjoy, I always laugh, hand over mouth not to insult him, but the whole experience is fully an act by both me and the writer, a very personal thing, he being the genius, of course. I love Nabokov for years, my confession to all, he never fails me!
Nabokov asks me to spend every molecule, of many, of my restless mind with a net gathering frail butterflies, as his example, in this he teaches the ways of life which are simple for complicated wanderers, like me and you.
The reader does a great job showing the humor in this book. I like Nabokov and think his prose is intricately surprising, but I was not a huge fan of this book because of the 3rd section: the mock literary criticism of the canto.
Snotty, elitist lawyer who reads too much and is kind too little.
Yes. Poetry is meant to be read aloud, and hearing Pale Fire (the poem) read to me was a different and deeper experience than reading it.
I'm going to go with Pynchon's "Crying of Lot 49." Both are excellent metafictive examples.
I think so, and I obviously liked this one better as I recall it.
Several! The book toys with your emotions -- heavy-handed comedy at one point, melodrama at another, and real human pain to chase it all away, before dropping you back into the madcap world of Kinbote's fever-dreams.
You owe it to yourself to listen to this.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.