• Noel Jacob

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

Pale Fire is a 1962 Postmodernist novel by Vladimir Nabokov, which features a 999-line poem by the fictional poet John Shade who is murdered right after finishing the very last lines of his work. His delusional neighbour Charles Kinbote then runs off with the only manuscript of the poem and takes it upon himself to publish and annotate it with a lengthy commentary and foreword.

Pale Fire shatters all traditional concepts of structure in literature by conveying the brunt of the story through eccentric annotations and footnotes from a delusional and unreliable narrator. Kinbote constantly misinterprets the poem into his personal life, repeatedly revealing himself to be in a constant state of illusion or delirium. Even after finishing the book, the reader is left to wonder where the narrator could be trusted and where he could not.

The book has served as one of the prime examples of Hyperlink Literature. The writing is witty and clever. The author can maintain the narrator’s whimsical, melancholic tone throughout the entirety of the commentary. Readers have come up with their methods of reading the book. Some prefer to read it linearly from poem to commentary and then the poem once again, while others choose to constantly switch back and forth between poem and commentary, while more others choose to read the commentary first and then proceed to read the poem.

Whatever method you choose to read, the novel alters your ideas of what comprises a novel. Pale Fire is the type of book you will never have read before.

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