Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire, with its wildly original narrative structure, is a postmodern masterpiece from the author of Lolita, skewering the politics of academia, the struggle for interpretation, and the infinite subjectivity of human experience, published in Penguin Modern Classics.
The American poet John Shade is dead; murdered. His last poem, Pale Fire, is put into a book, together with a preface, a lengthy commentary and notes by Shade's editor, Charles Kinbote. Known on campus as the 'Great Beaver', Kinbote is haughty, inquisitive, intolerant, but is he also mad, bad - and even dangerous? As his wildly eccentric annotations slide into the personal and the fantastical, Kinbote reveals perhaps more than he ought. Who is Charles Kinbote - could he be the exiled King Charles of Zembla, or the Russian madman, Professor Botkin? Or is he just another of John Shade's literary inventions? Nabokov's darkly witty, richly inventive masterwork is a suspenseful whodunit, a story of one-upmanship and dubious penmanship, and a glorious literary conundrum.
Vladimir Nabokov (1977-1899) was born in St Petersburg, but left Russia when the Bolsheviks seized power. His family moved to England for a brief spell and finally settled in Berlin. His first novel in English was The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, published in 1941. His other books include Ada, Laughter in the Dark, Details of a Sunset and Lolita, his best-known novel.
If you enjoyed Pale Fire, you might like Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.
'A Jack-in-the-box, a Fabergé gem, a clockwork toy, a chess problem'
'Pale Fire must be one of the most brilliant and extraordinary novels ever written, let alone in the twentieth century'
William Boyd, author of Any Human Heart