Re: VN's comments on PF
In a message dated 13/11/2006 16:34:58 GMT Standard Time, Chaswe@AOL.COM
I think it is a perfectly straightforward novel. The clearest revelation of
personality is to be found in the creative work in which a given individual
indulges. Here the poet is revealed by his poetry; the commentator by
his commentary. ['Pale Fire'] is jollier than the other [novels], and it is
full 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
is professor Botkin, or Botkine, a Russian and a madman. His commentary has
a number of notes dealing with entomology, ornithology, and botany. The
reviewers have said that I worked my favorite subjects into this novel.
What they have not discovered is that Botkin knows nothing about them, and
all his notes are frightfully erroneous.... No one has noted that my
commentator committed suicide before completing the index to the book....
entry has no numbered reference....
It is in the light of this sort of statement by the author that I have found
it very difficult to entertain seriously the "multiple personality"
hypothesis. Incidentally, this interview shows that VN regarded his assertion to
Appel that Kinbote/Botkin(e) committed suicide as something deducible from the
text rather than as extratextual information. On the other hand, there is a
slight tension, if not necessarily a contradiction, between "committed suicide
before completing the index to the book" (see above interview with Maurice
Dolbier, 17 June 1962) and "committed suicide (and he certainly did before
putting the last touches to his edition of the poem)" (see interview with Alfred
Appel, Jr., 25-9 September 1966, p. 74 in Strong Opinions, 1st edn).
On yet another hand, I still do not know how to account even for such a
central feature as Kinbote's having a "Zemblan translation of Timon of Athens"
and referring unseeingly to the exact passage from which Shade, in the English
original, gets his title.
It would be nice to be able to see this as "perfectly straightforward" and
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