- Audio Download
- Listening Length: 9 hours and 18 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Audible Studios
- Audible.co.uk Release Date: 23 Dec. 2010
- Language: English
- ASIN: B004H5YNF2
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank:
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Pale Fire Audiobook – Unabridged
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The book is brilliantly written and immensely amusing. You should not read anything about the "plot" beforehand, as most of the satisfaction and amusement is derived from the discoveries you make while reading and realizing that the commentary is about much more than the poem!
So, how do you know whether you are going to like it without reading a lot about it and without any other books being similar? I suggest that if you are in doubt about plunging into Pale Fire, you could first have a go at Pnin, another novel by Nabokov. Unlike Pale Fire, Pnin is a more "classic" novel, but it is a good intro to Nabokov's style and humor, plus the title character Pnin, also appears in Pale Fire, which will be a nice little treat.
More importantly, there is the issue of how to read Pale Fire. You obviously start with the preface. Then you have the poem and you try reading it by going back to look at the references in the quite extensive commentary. But the references refer to other references further along! So, you either read the references in order, or jump around following them. The good thing is that both methods work well. I read it taking the references in order, because I have a mild OCD, so I like to read things serially, and the revelations did work well enough, but I could see why the consensus is that the revelations are more "dramatic" if you follow the references and "jump around" - although that adds a bit to the bewilderment, especially when beginning.
But, yeah, even though I believe it is not a book everyone will "get" (a lot of the experience is based on humor after all, and humor is subjective), those that do are treated with a unique and satisfying experience.
Firstly, he believes himself to be the exiled King of Zembla (Zembla being a "distant northern land" in the vain of Hyperborea or, say, Avalon).
Secondly, Kinbote is obsessed with an old poet named John Shade, who just happens to live across the street near the campus, and it's with Shade's latest and last poem that the novel begins, a poem which Kinote utterly misinteprets as being about his life in the kingdom of Zembla and his daring escape to America from a plot to assassinate him.
The result of all this delusion is a humorous, puzzling, and elegantly imaginative account of one man's insanity, a madness that turns out to be strangely endearing, and which during its exposure invites the reader to decipher the truth of what really happened.
Concisely extravagant and weirdly exotic - some say Nabokov's finest novel, some may be perturbed by the foibles of the writer - overall an intriguing mix of fantasy and reality, truth and lies.
The poem which begins the book is written by the ageing American poet John Shade, who has recently been killed in mysterious circumstances. A deeply tragic autobiographical verse of 999 lines, it is subsequently dissected by a fellow academic who works at the same university as the poet, and who is clearly a deluded and obsessed paederast. The reader must decide for himself how much of the commentary can be believed, while enjoying an extraordinary story; at times full of gloom and foreboding, at others grandiose and bizarre - and sometimes screamingly funny. This is one of my favourite books of all time.