Shade Lost

1013 Words5 Pages
Shade Lost: The Dissolving Narrators of Nabokov’s Pale Fire Charles S. Ross, Professor of English at the University of Hartford and a literary critic seemed to betray a kind of distaste for Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire in two book reviews about the novel. In one review of Brian Boyd’s analysis, Ross comments, “...the whole structure of the book is annoying, in fact, because it insists that a reader go through a series of missteps in order to reach the grand solution…” (375). I agree with Ross. The book is terribly difficult to decipher. But my own difficulty with the novel is largely due to an aversion of the primary narrator of the text, Charles Kinbote, whom I found intrusive. In his translation or “commentary” of John Shade’s poem, a second…show more content…
Dowling, a Professor of English and American Literature at Rutgers University, writes that the narrator of Pale Fire is neither John Shade or Kinbote, but Nabokov himself. As proof, he offers a long sample of the narrative in which Gradus, the failed assassin in the Zembla narrative, is reading the Times. The sample ends in, “I confess it has been a wonderful game –this looking up in the WUL of various ephemerides over the shadow of padded shoulder” (qtd in Dowling para 19). The use of the personal pronoun, “I” in the excerpt leads Dowling to conclude that Nabokov is himself the narrator here – or rather, the focalizer who no longer exists within the pages of the story but outside of…show more content…
Like any Hitchcock film, where a cameo by the director is a traditional quirk, so too Nabokov appears in the pages through his multiple narrators. Left alone, the poem belongs to Shade, but it changes in context through Kinbote’s translation. Further, the latter includes an internal focalization that often betrays Kinbote’s self-importance – he places much more of himself within the lines of the poem, and perhaps more so than Shade had ever intended. Kinbote’s voice cancels out Shade’s, but does Nabokov negate Kinbote’s? Perhaps this is Nabokov’s main point. While Rimmon-Kenan asserts that “a person (and, by analogy, a narrative agent) is also capable of undertaking to tell what another person sees or has seen” (73), is it truly possible to do so without altering a story with our own internal narratives? The point that lies outside this text or the story itself is, I think, the narrator-focalizer-Nabokov with a very poignant message: in reading or over-reading, in processing and in re-telling, something is lost in the synergy between writer and reader. Perhaps it is
Open Document