Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0006926, Sat, 19 Oct 2002 09:01:53 -0700

Fw: PNIN & PALE FIRE: Tim and Joan in Istanbul
Tim and Joan in Istanbul
----- Original Message -----
From: Carolyn Kunin
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Friday, October 18, 2002 9:19 PM
Subject: Tim and Joan in Istanbul

The way my alternate reading of Pale Fire has developed really comes from an incident in the second chapter of Pnin. I was reminded of it while reading G. Barabtarlo's article on Pnin on the Zembla web site. I read the interlude slightly differently, however, and it is a technique that I used again in trying to understand Pale Fire.

Professor Barabtarlo points out an odd insertion into the narration :

Technically speaking, the narrator's art of integrating telephone conversations still lags behind that of rendering dialogues conducted from room to room, or from window to window across some narrow blue alley in an ancient town with water so precious, and the misery of donkeys, and rugs for sale, and minarets, and foreigners and melons, and the vibrant morning echoes.

This oriental town-scene will remain dangling until much later in the chapter it dawns upon the reader that it describes a particular water-color in the hallway and that N. is reproducing what Joan's "roaming eyes" scan as she is answering Pnin's call.

But for me the "rest of the story" came very quickly, within a page or two in my text. When Joan Clements and Pnin meet, she points out that they were in Istanbul at the same time. "We might have met!" Might have? They did. Joan and Timosha first spoke to each other from one window to the other across the alley and later one was invited to the other's home where the conversation continued from room to room. Or they might have been introduced by their parents first and then continued their conversation across the alley.

Admittedly, this requires some filling in on the part of the reader and I can't prove that this is what Nabokov intended, but it did give me pleasure to discover it and I have to suppose that this was intended by the author. A similar way of linking and filling in seems to work in Pale Fire, and I hope some one besides me is willing to try this way of reading the novel.