NABOKV-L post 0017251, Sat, 1 Nov 2008 18:50:51 -0400

THOUGHTS: Pale Fire timeline and Kinbote's commentary
Jerry responds:

First another question for all. Am I right in thinking
that when Kinbote looks at the index cards "for the last
time" and then puts them in an envelope, this should be
after he gets the page proofs? I imagine he'd want to
check the page proofs of the poem against the ms.

Matt, thanks for your helpful comments!

I can't agree, though, that Kinbote even probably wrote
his variants while he was writing the Commentary. He
may have done so as early as his first rereading: "Here
and there I discovered in it and especially, in the
invaluable variants, echoes and spangles of my mind, a
long ripplewake of my glory." (p. 297) Of course, he
could also be assigning to that time "discoveries" that
he made later. But I think he could have written the
variants early on as a response to his initial

I hadn't really thought about what secrets were
blasted up. What Kinbote says in the note to line
1000 is that his "endeavors to make people calmly see--
without having them immediately scream and hustle me--
the truth of the tragedy [...] ended by affecting the
course of my new life, and necessitated my removal to
this modest mountain cabin."

Hustle him into an insane asylum? Anyway, from his
point of view the secret seems to be that he is King
Charles; he has to tell people that in trying to
convince them that he was the intended victim. From
the "real" point of view, his reason for leaving may
be that people are trying to have him committed,
with the side benefit of getting the ms. out of his

As I just said in my draft, Kinbote can't have
written the whole Foreword on his first night in
Cedarn, since four sentences before mentioning
"malicious, rotating music", he mentions Sybil's
telegram that ignored his "month-old letter" sent
from Cedarn (pp. 17-18). Kinbote must have written
the Foreword in bits and pieces, the way Nabokov
wrote novels.

You seem to picture Kinbote's discovery that the
"amusement park" is just campers as coming with his
first view in daylight. I hadn't considered that.
Maybe he wrote some of the Foreword in his head
while driving and couldn't wait to type it up when he
got to the cabin at night. On the other hand, maybe
the campsite "across the road" (note to lines 609-614)
is actually out of sight, and Kinbote's aversion to
the music keeps him from climbing a hill to see what's

The Foreword has another reference to the Commentary
(not to line 991, mentioned on p. 15. For some
reason I suspect you knew that, and your question
about such things was a professorial hint to check
again :-) But as you say, one usually can't tell
whether such references are to something Kinbote has
written or something he plans.

Jerry Friedman

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