MR responding to various:
JA: Yes that's what I meant by cheating: in the world of New Wye the two characters exist together and people acknowledge it. Now, you're right, in one way this wouldn't be "cheating" since the only person who narrates it is Kinbote, but if you don't accept the New Wye scenes as "real" then this means not only that we're having to interpret an illusion through the distorted window of a primary delusion, but that in the end we could take anything in the book rather arbitrarily as "true" or not.
MR: I should not have said that the New Wye scenes are a "fantasy," because I do think they have a degree of reality to them that the Zembla scenes do not. They are based on real events and people, but they have been re-collected by an unstable mind that can't distinguish between actual events and confabulations. The Faculty Club/encyclopedia scene is crucial to understanding this and can't be explained away without some extreme conjectural contortions (such as the idea that whenever Kinbote mentions Zembla, he is, in the real New Wye, actually saying Russia). Likewise, do we really believe in the accuracy of the contrived dialogue between Shade and Kinbote in notes like 549? I do not. That kind of exact recollection by is impossible, even in novels (though many contemporary "memoir" writers seem to have a whole audio archive of their childhoods stored somewhere in their well-lit, climate-controlled basements). Given these scenes, is your assertion that "N. wanted the "reality" of Zembla to remain ambiguous, but not that of New Wye" at least questionable? Of course one could argue that these unbelievable scenes are just mistakes, or fancies, or that as readers we need to suspend our disbelief a little. Fair enough, as long as we recognize that EVERY theory of Pale Fire resorts to that argument on one point or another. I should say, also, that I have never found that the revelation of a secondary personality detracts from my enjoyment of the drama and humor of the New Wye scenes. The scenes still play out before our eyes, whether or not we believe they happened that way on some level of fictional reality. As for your point that if Kinbote's New Wye narrative is unreal, then we can't discern whether anything is "true" or not, I have to disagree. After all, we still have Shade's poem, which, though it contains its own evasions, gives us ample ground to stand on. That is why I say that the poem is the cantus firmus, the fixed line. When we fold (like a carpet) the commentary back over the top of it, we experience the poem's melody in a strange new way but the melody remains, at its core, a fundamental reality from which the rest spirals out.
JA: I don't think it's admirable to be vague and washy, and I think if N had wanted us to find this sort of reading it would be very concretely and consciously there, and would have been discovered years ago.
MR: I think it is to VN's credit that his novels are still revealing themselves half a century later. The secondary personality theory is not really new; it is simply a re-working of the Shadean theory that has been around almost as long as PF itself. I think there is a reason that VN didn't denounce Bader's interpretation when she came out with it. He knew that she didn't have the whole thing yet, but she had peeled back some layers of the novel that needed peeling. When did the statute of limitations for discovering things run out?
JA: The correlated details work 1. as a parody/exaltation of criticism; 2. as a comic dramatic form of characterization. We go from seeing Kinbote as he sees himself to a kind of understanding of who he "really" is; as we suspect he must be. The zembla fantasy and it's relationship to the world of New Wye provide fun, humor and pathos--they dramatze a portrait of a man drowning in himself, a man who is anything but a king in life. Worse, even in his own fantasy--and this is the particularly Nabokovian touch--the poor self-loathing creature manages to exile himself from his own made up kingdom! How then could these details be considered in any way superfluous to the plot?
MR: I was not as clear as I should have been. I did not mean to say that either the whole Zembla plot or the poem-commentary structure of the book serve merely as ornament. I meant to say that those "covert concords," the more subtle consonant details, are more richly integrated into the plot when we see Kinbote and Shade as one person.
CK: To this I would add that Kinbote's annotation to l. 949 is actually addressed to a doctor.
MR: Yes, but Humbert Humbert often addresses himself to the "jury." It does not follow that he wrote his memoir in a courtroom.
Sergei: Second, is that Kinbote as Botkin could very well know the "Song..." and these werewolf references, but it is hardly imaginable in case of Shade.
MR: "The Vseslav Epos" was published in 1949. Perhaps Prof. Pnin (Szeftel) gave John Shade a copy!
For those still interested in what VN knew about fractured personalities, I recommend reading chapter II of Myers' Human Personality, while keeping in mind that this is not ALL of what VN knew: http://books.google.com/books?id=NAUFAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA26.
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