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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 21 July 2012
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov is the story of Charles Kinbote, who following the death of his "friend" the esteemed poet John Shade, publishes Shades last work Pale Fire, a poem of Four Cantos, alongside a personal introduction by Kinbote, and an extensive commentary upon the lines of the poem.

Kinbote, certainly is more than he appears to be, and who he is, or more accurately who he thinks he is, is revealed slowly via his introduction and commentary. Kinbote, obsessed with Shade, develops a stalker like infatuation with him, and in many ways steals this last poem, ferociously inserting himself and the story of his homeland Zembla into the inspiration and meaning behind Shade's last work, a work which to the reader appears to actually be autobiographical and about Shade's wife and dead daughter.

The vast majority of the novel concerns delusional, mentally compromised, Kinbote taking small lines of Pale Fire perhaps a word or two and then extrapolating huge chunks of Zemblan history from it, various kings, queens, and dissidents, at enormous length and the life of Shade as reflected in the poem barely gets a look in.

The prose is "purple prose" excessively verbose and extremely annoying. Though this is in keeping with the character of Charles Kinbote, for me, it was a complete turn off as a reader.

If I am to be perfectly honest about this novel, I thought it was dreadful, I didn't enjoy it on any single level, I was by turns bored and irritated beyond measure and if it had not been as few as 239 pages I would have given up on it entirely.

I really could not have cared less or been less interested in flaming Zembla and yet it goes on, and on, and on, with few moments of respite.

My overall feeling about Pale Fire in the end is that it is one of "those books" that people make a fuss over and praise because they think it's an intelligent novel and to praise Nabokov is to announce to your general acquaintance that you belong to a certain kind of elitist "intelligentsia" which elevates you from the average general masses you have the misfortune to be surrounded by. Basically a show offs book about a show off for other show offs to name drop into the conversation, and then say "Oh....you haven't read Pale Fire" and thereby claim some kind of arbitrary superiority of their own invention.

Awful.
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on 14 December 2014
cool thanks
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on 31 January 2013
I've written a more detailed review on my blog, [...]

but for now, just to say this is one of those must read books. It is complex, challenging, but hugely enjoyable.
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on 8 January 2013
If you've never read Nabokov, this might be a tough intro. But if you're a fan of Lolita, Bend Sinister, Ada or his shorter stories, just read this. You'll be amazed.
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on 11 June 2013
Nabokov is justly considered a great writer, and this book supports the view. Although short, and in an unusual form, it is very clever and definitely worth reading
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on 5 November 2014
multi layered intellectual fireworks, in an easy to read style. Every page a delight and a challenge. Every sentence twists in unexpected directions
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on 16 November 2014
Selected by my bookclub I was forced to plough through this book which I did at the rate of about one page per day

the book's main purpose as far as I can see it to display the eruditeness of the author. He Never uses a normal word when an obscure one can be found - although many were so obscure ( or were made up) so they weren't even in the dictionary or Wikipedia.

I did laugh out loud three times. But The rest was just misery.
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on 12 November 2003
This novel is seminal in the development of metafiction as a virtual genre. Nabokov weaves his epic poem into the novel seamlessly. The poem becomes both the central movement and the theme for the novel as the narrator becomes more and more obsessed with poet Shade's work and life. It is a masterpiece.
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on 25 October 2015
One of the best things ever. This and Lolita are the zenith of Nabokov.
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on 6 August 2014
This book is a marvel filled adventure in reading.
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