[EDNote--more recent subscribers to Nab-L might be intrigued to learn that the debate over Kinbote/Shade (etc. etc.) primacy has a deep history on the list, and in the scholarship.  Major contributors have been Brian Boyd, Andrew Field, Matt Roth & Tiffany DeRewal, Rene Alladaye, Jerry Friedman, Carolyn Kunin--and I apologize to those I'm leaving out.  An archive search of "Pale Fire" will bring up most of these threads.  It was such a debate on the list in the late 1990s, I believe, that sparked Brian Boyd's epiphanic conversion from Shadean to something quite different, and his book Nabokov's Pale Fire: The Magic of Artistic Discovery.  In that book, by the way, he takes a different (very detailed) angle on the "pain/again" rhyme, discussed by Mahmoud Aliamer below.  Enjoy! -SB]

Re: [NABOKV-L] RES: [NABOKV-L] RES: [NABOKV-L] Pale Fire - Length And Line Numbers? A coincidence?
Mahmoud Aliamer <maliamer04@gmail.com>
7/15/2015 2:53 AM
Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@listserv.ucsb.edu>

Jansy Mello: Did VN plan to make CK's foreword inconsistent from the start?
Jansy Mello: the poem was ready before he finished writing CK's commentaries.

To be completely frank, I'm not entirely convinced that "John Shade" - at least, the literary John Shade - can be said not to be a fabrication of Charles Kinbote and exist outside of him (or the other way around, or some other combination - have you seen Shutter Island?)

Whenever I talk about Pale Fire I make the Kinbote/Shade distinction, but I also feel that the frequent meshing of existent worlds ought not be overlooked. For one thing, I can't explain away the linguistic clews in the poem itself -- there's a somewhat frequent European tinge to the American John shade. I'm thinking here of things like:

1: "A thread of subtle pain" rhyming with "Tugged at by playful death, released again" (139.5, 140) or, more interestingly
2: lines 367 - 370, which Kinbote comments on (Lines 367 - 370: then - pen, again - explain: In speech John Shade, as a good American, rhymed "again" with "pen" and not "explain." The adjacent position of these rhymes is curious.):
367  And I would hear both voices now and then:
368  "Mother, what's grimpen?" "What is what?"
                                                                    "Grim Pen."
369 Pause, and your guarded scholium. Then again:
370 "Mother, what's chtonic?" That, too, you'd explain,
This series of rhymes appears to me as a kind of gradient - "then -> Grim Pen -> again" but ALSO "then -> Grim Pen; again -> explain," as if John Shade meshes into Charles Kinbote.
3: the elongation of E's
3a: lines 747 and 748: "It was a story in a magazine/ About a Mrs. Z. whose heart had been..."
3b: lines 829 and 830: "Of accidents and possibilities./ Stormcoated, I strode in: Sybil it is" - Kinbote defends this one with commentary about "accidents and possibilities," but I'm not 100% sure I buy it
I think there's just too much union of European and American English for this to be written off, and it does seem like - at the very least - either John Shade is slipping in his English or Charles Kinbote is altering the text in more ways than in just appending a 1000th line. Notice, too, in the index, under "variants" that three of the poetic alterations in the commentary are indexed as "K's contribution." (and, fittingly, in the note to line 1000, "Mrs. Shade will not remember having been shown by her husband 'who showed her everything' one or two of the precious variants" -- there are three variants specially indexed as K's contribution).

There are also passages (of course, open to interpretation) which appear to mesh the two worlds. Take, for example, the comment to lines 433 - 434:
"Sure, sure," said Shade. "One can harness words like performing fleas and make them drive other fleas. Oh, sure."
"And moreover," I continued as we walked down the road right into a vast sunset, "as soon as your poem is ready, as soon as the glory of Zembla merges with the glory of your verse, I intend to divulge to you an ultimate truth, an extraordinary secret, that will put your mind completely at rest." (emphasis mine)
Yes, the poem may have been completed - as far as Nabokov's Shade was concerned - BUT it obviously was not completed as far as Kinbote was, for Zembla and verse had not become one. 

As for how I believe Kinbote's supposed suicide fits into all this - I'll get back to you on details on that once I sort them all out myself. I do believe, however, that Kinbote is dead, by his own hand, too - for if the reader accepts (as I do) that Zembla is a fictive nation and that King Charles Kinbote becomes aware of the delusion that is his "home" (there are signs of this consciousness in the commentary) and that all those epithets of "last king of Zembla" are purposeful, then I can see no other way.There are, I think, more convincing bits of evidence than that, but I don't have them concisely organized.

Google Search
the archive
the Editors
NOJ Zembla Nabokv-L
Subscription options AdaOnline NSJ Ada Annotations L-Soft Search the archive VN Bibliography Blog

All private editorial communications are read by both co-editors.