Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002630, Tue, 16 Dec 1997 15:00:41 -0800

Re: Pale Fire: who invented whom (fwd)

Since the msg. from Charles Nicol included an editor's note that Charles
was co-editor of NABOKOV'S FIFTH ARC, I thought it wouldn't be so
inappropriate to cite my article on PALE FIRE there (written while
I was a grad. student, by the by), which was, indeed, heavily edited
by Charles (and perhaps the other co-editor, J.E. Rivers), but in a
non-Kinbotian way. My initial argument was modified somewhat through
this process. But, in essence, what I argued was that Kinbote, Shade,
and even Gradus are purposefully interlinked and in a sense add up to
one whole self. Yet, in a sense, even that whole self is trumped by the
Ur-self, Nabokov the creator-god. I didn't say explicitly but did
believe, along with Charles in his recent posting, that "who created
whom?" isn't the most relevant question. As I said in that early
article (if I may be so bold as to quote myself) was that
"the character's intermingling and interdependence are intentional, and
the characters are definitely aesthetic tools of the author . . . Nabokov
created all of them, and he created them purposely to be difficult
to differentiate." Now, I would modify that last part and add that
he may have anticipated the common "let's find the key to the puzzle,
let's find the code, let's play the game" approach to his work by
many readers and wanted both to initiate and also thwart readings
that ask which character creates whom or which is "real" within the
fictional world of the novel, etc. Marilyn Edelstein, Dept. of English,
Santa Clara University, Santa Clara CA 95053

I have noticed that most of comments on this subject tend toward
the general. I have not reread PF in some years, nor what I have written
about it. It is my hazy recollection that my assertion of Kinbote's
primacy (apart from Shade's poem) was based on two things. 1) Kinbote (<
Botkin) makes a few Russian-based word plays such as parachute/shutka
(the Russian word for "joke"). Kinbote knows Russian and there is no
evidence that Shade does. 2) In my _Worlds in Regression_ volume (which
should be under everyone's Xmas Tree and/or Channukah Bush). I offer an
imperfect Word Golf sequence something like NABOKOV >V.BOTKIN >
KINBOTE in the context of the CROWN>CROW>COW (NB the older THE OLD
English plural "KINE") and KORONA>VORONA>KOROVA
(pp 71-73).