Yet in her 1962 (note the date) Introductory Essay to PF (added to the 1991 Penguin edition) McCarthy DOES identify the title’s source and, after quoting the FAMOUS five lines from Timon of Athens (Act IV sc 3), she expands on the CENTRALITY to PF of this Shakespearean mirror-as-thief theme. She writes:
If I am not mistaken, Donald B. Johnson attempted to prove that Kinbote is Botkin in his "The Index of Refraction in PALE FIRE", Worlds in Regression: Some Novels of Vladimir Nabokov, pp. 60-77 (Ardis 1985).
From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum [mailto:NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU]On Behalf Of Chaswe@AOL.COM
Sent: 10 November 2006 05:19
Subject: [NABOKV-L] Botkin(e). Modest Proposal
This is probably a very naive question, but what is the internal evidence in PF that the nasty commentator is Botkin, a Russian madman, not Kinbote, a Zemblan madman? Is not Botkin, or Botkine, a mirror-image of Kinbote? Is VN being reliable here? I certainly failed to notice Botkin's authorship in reading PF several times after first buying the paperback in 1964. But I'm used to being called dense.
Mary McCarthy's failure to uncover Timon of Athens is slightly deplorable, of course.
Discoveries in a work of literature have to be a surprise to many, including its author. This is a feature of what Robert Graves called the proleptic nature of literary creation, and Koestler applied this to all forms of sudden creative insight. A burr, or piece of fluff, which has lodged in memory since I read it many years ago was the comment, made I think by a little girl, and embryonic authoress: "How can I know what I mean until I see what I say?"
In a message dated 09/11/2006 17:57:31 GMT Standard Time, NABOKV-L@HOLYCROSS.EDU writes:
Here the poet is revealed by his poetry; the commentator by
> commentary. ['Pale Fire'] is jollier than the other [novels], and it is
> of plums that I keep hoping somebody will find. For instance, the nasty
> commentator is not an ex-King of Zembla nor is he professor Kinbote. He
> professor Botkin, or Botkine, a Russian and a madman. His commentary has
> number of notes dealing with entomology, ornithology, and botany. The
> reviewers have said that I worked my favorite subjects into this novel.
> they have not discovered is that Botkin knows nothing about them, and
> his notes are frightfully erroneous.... No onehas noted that my
> comment ator
> committed suicide before completing the index to the book.... The last
> has no numbered reference.... And even Mary McCarthy, who has discovered
> more of the books than most of its critics, had some difficulty in
> the source of its title, and made the mistake of searching for it in
> Shakespeare's 'The Tempest.' It is from 'Timon of Athens.'
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