Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Nabakov’s Pale Fire

Intrigued by a recent article on the fate of Vladimir Nabakov’s last, unpublished manuscript, I re-read his ingenious novel Pale Fire. Given this story, of what can happen to the manuscript of a deceased author, one isn’t terribly surprised by Nabakov’s desire to have his unfinished manuscript consigned to the “pale fire of the incinerator.” (This quote, from the “Foreword” to Pale Fire, is the first allusion to the novel’s title. But the 999-line poem in the novel attributes the poem's title to Shakespeare, which takes one to Timon of Athens: “the moon's an arrant thief, / And her pale fire she snatches from the sun” [Act IV, scene 2].)