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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"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)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Roger
  • Howell, NJ, United States
  • 03-27-12

An amazing feat for such a unique novel

While I highly recommend this selection, I can only recommend it to those who have read the printed novel first. Nabokov's book consists of a long poem written by John Shade, and a rambling, often hilarious, "commentary" written by Charles Kinbote, self-proclaimed king-in-exile from his beloved country of Zembla. As the commentary refers to specific lines of the 999-line poem, I was curious as to how the producers of the audiobook would handle these two distinct components. I was delighted by the choice to employ two narrators, Robert Blumenfeld for Shade and Marc Vietor for Kinbote. Both are excellent, but Vietor's Kinbote is what makes this audiobook so special. His unidentifiable (slightly Russian) accent and self-assured cockiness bring the exiled king (or plain madman) spring to life. Fans of the book should not feel they are wasting a credit by buying a book they've already read. Listening to Pale Fire will bring a new level of appreciation to Nabokov's brilliant novel.

25 of 27 people found this review helpful

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Brilliant, Touching and Fun

You have to give this book a chance. It's a little rough to get started but once you catch all the implications, it's a funny and brilliant look at academia and humanity.

I laughed out loud at a few lines and then I felt this rather sad pathos start to come over me. It's just a spoof, right? A brilliant spoof, but the book is merely satire and so we shouldn't be disturbed by it. But it is disturbing and it runs a lot deeper than spoof.

The feeling you'll experience are real.

Even the title...

Give it a chance. Buy a hard copy. Try. It's certainly one of the finest assembly of words ever.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • David
  • Macon, GA, United States
  • 01-02-11

Quality recording!

This audiobook has two well-chosen narrators: one for Shade's poem and another - Vietor, I assume - for the commentary. The poem narrator also reads the opening reference lines to each footnote which breaks up the flow nicely and gives aural cues for each new note. Because of the highly non-linear structure induced by cross-references in the commentary, some may recommend constantly pausing and consulting a hard copy. Pale Fire demands to be reread and further explored in ways which might render the audiobook useless. This was perhaps an opportunity to be more creative with the audiobook indexing, but instead you just get roughly hour-long chunks.

Alas, I found my first reading to be fabulously enjoyable, if not entirely illuminating, without such devices (straight-through). Well-read, never dull voicings, 5 stars

26 of 29 people found this review helpful

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  • Deborah
  • AUSTIN, TX, United States
  • 09-01-12

Be Prepared - dark dark dark

The further I get away from this the more I appreciate it. I had heard repeatedly that this was a comic novel, which is not the first word I'd choose to describe a tale of murder, madness and a child's suicide. Yes, it has some funny parts but so does Lolita, which is not generally classified as humor. With these expectations I was sorely disappointed.

But Pale Fire is a tour de force of structure whose place in the canon I'd agree to. And the story and characters are compelling -- I couldn't stop listening. And the narration is as good as it gets, two gifted performances of extremely challenging roles.Just don't expect a light hearted romp.

23 of 26 people found this review helpful

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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 04-15-12

A Gentle Ghost of a Poet

One of the funniest, most absurdly brilliant books I've ever read. I find it amazing that Nabakov would have written this novel (which oddly is a haunting retelling of my life story) without mentioning me by name at all. There must be a reason for this. Perhaps Nabakov was trying to not just protect me, but my whole family from the fame and pain that would no doubt have accompanied the public's inquisitiveness and the critics' vampirism if this information had been made plain and obvious. That is what I love about Nabakov. He is a gentle ghost of a poet that exists in many levels and in many times and in many spaces simultaneously. I think his integrity in lying about and hiding my influence is both beautiful and nobel and certainly shaking with a heterosexual, Russian poet's naiveté

35 of 40 people found this review helpful

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ROBERT BLUMENFELD PLAYS KINBOTE!!!!

Marc Vietor Reads The poem as John Shade.
But Blumenfeld, who has an American accent in real life, is the brilliant/mad King!!!
We all assumed Marc Vietor was the chap with the accent. Blumenfeld is one of the most gifted narrators out there along with Jeremy Irons and Bronson Pinchot. But with this material, he dominates!

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

What is postmodernism?

"There is a very loud amusement park right in front of my present lodgings."



Very nice addition to Audible.This is a difficult book, made a little difficult by this excellent production. It is a great narration, and fun to listen to. Before you buy, Google "Pale Fire" and read about it.

The book is completely non-linear, I listened in the car and while walking, then got a paperback edition for 50 cents and read different parts at night. This isn't Dean Koontz or David Baldacci, but something very unique.

18 of 21 people found this review helpful

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Literature at its Comic Inventive Best

Where does Pale Fire rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Pale Fire is in the top rank of the audiobooks I have listened to so far. Nabokov's work is the pinnacle of word craft. This audiobook is endlessly interesting and one you can rehear many times and each time appreciate this work of high art.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The "author" of the book is the most interesting character. He narrates the story while the narrator reads the book.

Which scene was your favorite?

The conclusion of the commentary at the end of chapter eight. The many possibilities explaining who Jack Gray was and who he sought illustrate the ingenuity of the story.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

You thought it couldn't be done.

Any additional comments?

The book can and should be listened to several times. The lyric of the prose is sufficient reward for each relistening. Untangling the artful chaos can only be done with multiple hearings.

8 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Jocelyn
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • 06-17-11

Pale Fire

This narration is everything you want in a complex story. Vietor's interpretation is extraordinary and really captures the idiosyncracies of 'Charlie/Kimbote/King Charles the Beloved'.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Not a good book for audio

This is not a book to read on a long car ride. This is a participatory book. You should have either two copies of the book or excellent book-marking skills. You will be leafing back and forth between the poem and the footnotes.

14 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • CMV
  • 04-28-17

It's all very clever but...

I loved Lolita and loved the idea of this novel. I can't claim to have got all the in-jokes and levels of sub-text but I got a fair amount of them. Perhaps reading it and referring to the endnotes as you go might make it better. But I found this only occasionally amusing, the jokes laboured, and the book, ultimately, boring.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful