NABOKV-L post 0020446, Tue, 3 Aug 2010 17:33:59 -0400

Nabokov sa id that hi s masterpi ece Pale F ire“ ...

Stanford may be at heart of Vladimir Nabokov mystery

Yvor Winters

In a 1962 interview, Vladimir Nabokov said that his masterpiece Pale Fire “is full of plums that I keep hoping somebody will find.” Stanford may be at the heart of one of them.

A few years ago, Stanford magazine published an article linking Lolita’s notorious Humbert Humbert with former faculty member Henry Lanz. But Nabokov’s short stay in Palo Alto might have left some other unexpected fruit. Was Stanford poet-critic YVOR WINTERS the model for John Shade, the mysterious murdered man at the heart of Pale Fire?

Texas poet and scholar R. S. Gwynn thinks so and has written the introduction for Pale Fire, Gingko Press’ soon-to-be-published book that takes Shade’s 999-line poem out of the ingenious novel around it. The poem is the obsession of the madman who annotates it – and so most have assumed the poem is supposed to be a Frostian pastiche. Or is it?

The poem “might not be a carefully diminished version of Nabokov’s talents, but Nabokov writing at the peak of his powers,” writes journalist Ron Rosenbaum in Slate. Nabokov’s son agrees his father intended the poem to be taken seriously.

Rosenbaum writes: “I was particularly struck by the degree of erudition about contemporary American poetry that Gwynn brought to his case that Nabokov meant Pale Fire to be a reproof to over-casual, over-personal, over-trivial trends in American poetry. A reproof to the belief that formal poetics could not capture deep feeling in traditional verse forms. And that Nabokov had modeled John Shade on the well-known traditionalist American poet Yvor Winters, who was a partisan of formal poetics.”

In any case, Gwynn is hoping the publicity will ferret out someone with more detailed memories of the Nabokov-Winters relationship, before the trail goes completely cold.

The blog “The Book Haven” considers the association between Nabokov and Winters. If you have any information that can shed further light on the mystery, Gwynn asks that you contact him through The Book Haven.
— Cynthia Haven

This entry was posted on Monday, August 2nd, 2010 at 4:00 am and is filed under In the Spotlight.

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