NABOKV-L post 0017260, Sun, 2 Nov 2008 15:10:57 -0500

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

--- On Sat, 11/1/08, jansymello <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:
> JM [ to JF and MR}: Charles Kinbote used the same emblem as
> did Sebastian Knight in VN's former novel.
> How do you ( JF anbd MR) interpret this?

Chess was one of Nabokov's main interests, and provides
convenient "logos" for the surname Knight and for a
delusional king (if the signers are good at drawing and, if
you want to know my opinion, a bit affected). I'm afraid I
don't see any more than that.

> JM: Another set of quotes suggests it took CK some time
> before he reached, freely enough, his mountain cabin. He
> mentions a plane trip to NY and also, his driving to Cedarn
> all the way from New Wye.

We noticed the same thing. From another angle, I
mention in my new timeline draft that Kinbote must have
acquired a car somehow, maybe by returning to New Wye
to get his red Kramler.

> Do you think he was lying in the foreword and on his
> commentaries?

Previously, I felt sure that large amounts of the
foreword and notes were his delusions. Zembla, for
instance. Given that, it's hard to tell whether
he's lying too. Now I've belatedly thought about the
implications of his index entry (under "Kinbote") about
"Gerald Emerald" that sends us to note 741, about
Izumrudov. How aware is he supposed to be that Zembla
reflects New Wye? Or is this just the author's clue
to these reflections? Such questions make it even
harder for me to classify much of Kinbote's part of
the book as lies, fantasy, mistake, or delusion. But
I'd say that a great deal of it--at least--is not
supposed to be fictionally "real".

> JM: I hope I'm not too off the mark, here! In my
> interpretation the amusement park (noise, carrousel,
> rotating lights) and the motor lodge (mainly its trucks),
> present in both CK's and Shade's text, suggest some
> mental disturbance both shared:
> I'll quote only the part with trucks...
> John Shade's poem: lines 931-934: And while the safety
> blade with scrape and screak/ Travels across the country of
> my cheek,/ Cars on the highway pass, and up the steep/
> Incline big trucks around my jawbone creep,[...]
> CK's commentary:
> (a) to line 934: I must say I do not remember hearing very
> often "big trucks" passing in our vicinity. Loud
> cars, yes - but not trucks.;
> (b) Line 1000: ..dying J.Shade "I'll have to write
> again to Bob Wells [the town mayor] about those damned
> Tuesday night trucks."...

I too had noticed Kinbote's discrepancy about the trucks
in New Wye, which I think is one of several deliberate
clues to his unreliability even on non-Zemblan matters,
where many have taken him to be reliable. Shade's two
comments about trucks strike me as perfectly self-

I don't see the evidence for Shade's mental disturbance
in the other images either. He imagines, presumably
unprompted by Kinbote, a rotating fan and colored ("neon")
lights seen by a man dying in a motel. Kinbote later, in
his rented cabin, hears music that he imagines to be
"rotating" and he may imagine rotating lights--though he
shouldn't see them, because even noisy campers would be
unlikely to have such things. His image may be influenced
by the poem, which he has read at least twice by this time,
and he too is an exile (and death is coming soon to him too).
Does this tell us something about Shade's mental health?
I don't see it. But then such parallels between scenes
are the kind of thing I usually don't see.

All this assumes the events "really happen", which I've
just been arguing we can't rely on.

Jerry Friedman

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