Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0006970, Sat, 26 Oct 2002 12:48:27 -0700

Pale Fire: Boyd/Alexander/Kunin Thread]
Re: [Fwd: Pale Fire: Boyd/Alexander/Kunin Thread]
----- Original Message -----
From: Carolyn Kunin
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Saturday, October 26, 2002 11:10 AM
Subject: Re: [Fwd: Pale Fire: Boyd/Alexander/Kunin Thread]

Dear Mr Nguyen,

It will take a while to completely read and understand your thesis, but I do want to let you know that even on this forum you are, if in the minority, not alone. I have wondered if Nabokov could be aware of what has been made of Pale Fire in the past 40 years, whether he would be a) pleased that no one had understood the book or b) disturbed that no one had understood it. I should think b, because the answer as you say, has to be a simple one, by inference, and yet in 40 years no one has found that answer.

But, actually, I think some people have found the answer. But since Nabokov's intention was for the solution to be an anti-scholarly one (as you point out Kinbote's failings should be a warning to any would-be commentators) the answer hasn't been published by anyone. Where is the non-scholar to publish an interpretation? I am unusual in being both academically trained and un-academically inclined.

My "alternate interpretation" has been discovered by at least one other person. I do not know who that person is, but an internet "Cliffs Notes"-like site called PinkMonkey.com does describe Shade as an aging alchoholic who preys sexually on his students. That is put more harshly than I would, but is essentially what I concluded.

Since you singled out for interpretation the scene of Fleur in the cheval-glass, I would like to post here the description of the cheval-glass in the work I think is the key to understanding Pale Fire:

Next in the course of their review of the chamber, the searchers came to the cheval-glass, into whose depth they looked with an involuntary horror. But it was so turned as to show them nothing but the rosy glow playing on the roof, and the fire sparkling in a hundred repetitions along the glazed front of the presses, and their own pale and fearful countenances stooping to look in.

This of course is from Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde.

Carolyn Kunin

P.S. The presses mentioned are glass presses that Dr Jekyll used to manufacture his own glass accoutrments for his chemical experiments, so the room in which the cheval glass is located is his private glass works.

-------- Original Message -------- Subject: Pale Fire: Boyd/Alexander/Kunin Thread Date: Fri, 25 Oct 2002 08:19:06 -0700 From: Thomas Nguyen <thomasnguyen25@HOTMAIL.COM> <mailto:thomasnguyen25@HOTMAIL.COM> To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU

----------------- Message requiring your approval (25 lines) ------------------
I recently resumed checking this list and was pleased to see that criticism of Brian
Boyd's reading of Pale Fire continues to arise. Last year, I posted my senior thesis
which provides a discussion of Boyd's reading and a possible alternative way of
approaching the novel. Due to some difficulties with a computer virus, I believe
some people were reluctant to open the file and I received no responses to the
paper as a result.

My findings support, in part, Victoria Alexander's review of Boyd's book, and goes on
to provide a more structured approach to the novel focusing more on the actual
process of interpretation and question forming. I have reposted it on my website in
pdf format for review. You may view it at:


I would appreciate any comments from people interested in this ongoing discussion.
In particular, Dave Andrews, who made the following statement, should see that I as
well share his view of the general trends of Nabokov criticism:

"p.s.--this whole Boyd-Alexander affair, of which I have read the whole, is sad. There
is no reason for this type of nastiness. Has anyone on this listserve ever pointed out
EXPLICITLY how Nabokovians have both reputations for being acolytes and
particular reputations for petty sniping? Here you see the reason. Perhaps the
"Master's" example need not always be followed. "

Thomas Nguyen