NABOKV-L post 0020474, Fri, 6 Aug 2010 21:50:53 -0400

THOUGHTs about solutions re: Pale Fire

On Aug 6, 2010, at 7:11 PM, Ron Rosenbaum wrote:

> Has anyone else noticed the contradictory logic ... in regard to the
> role of Hazel Shade in <Pale Fire>?

Actually I'm trying simply to grasp what the basic thesis is! (Beyond
the simple proposition that Hazel influenced, inspired, parts of the
Specifically which lines or sections of the poem are seen as
influenced by Hazel and what the specific support for each such
interpretation is.

> ... I think the problem is that Boyd (and many others) are too eager
> to offer a "solution" to <Pale Fire> as if it were some crossword
> puzzle rather than a luminous numinous work of art.

I have no problem with readers looking for solutions to Pale Fire. Why
shouldn't they?
Kinbote's tale is so fantastical and his manner delusional that it's
hardly strange that the reader might not accept the tale as true; the
way one might be expected to accept Shade's poem, as true; and thereby
be moved by it. If the reader doesn't believe in Kinbote's Zemblan
fantasy then it can hardly seem odd for him to scan it for hidden
meanings, interpret it, or ask why the author chose to include such a
piece of fantasy along side a prosaic, i.e., believable, albeit oddly
told, poem. Indeed it's hard for me not to believe that that is the
work's intent.
Besides Nabokov loved puzzles, chess problems, word golf,
combinational delight...
So to me there is a problem, but also there is no guaranteed solution.
Possibly the parts are to be seen as simply ironic, perhaps even
meaningless, juxtaposition; as in much modern graphic art, or even
some modern verse.
The problem with a problem that has no solution though is: how can the
reader ever know for sure that there was no solution?
(Perhaps there is a meaning to the epigram: an oracle of Hodge!)
In a system of pure logic, as in math or chess, proving something is
impossible is in fact possible, common even.
But in a system of words, gestures, connotations and interpretations,
such certainty about the impossible, or non-existent, is probably not

Nevertheless I believe it is esthetically more pleasing, and gives the
author a greater sense of achievement, to device a problem that has a
solution; as opposed to one that does not.

Needless to say, any solution, or insight of any kind, ought to be
clearly described and supported in order to be worth reading or
commenting on.

Logically yours, I hope,
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