Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004757, Tue, 15 Feb 2000 12:39:20 -0800

Boyd's Pale Fire & homophobia (fwd)
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Robert Myers <nanrob@dellnet.com>

I have recently had the chance to read Nabokov's Pale Fire by Mr. Boyd and
to reread Pale Fire in the process. Though I do find Mr. Boyd's current
analysis much more convincing and interesting than his previous ideas
published in American Years, I am finding myself more and more troubled by
Pale Fire itself. Perhaps it is just a marketing tool for N's PF to
propose Pale Fire is the true masterpiece of Nabokov's life work, but the
statements to that end on Mr. Boyd's book's jacket wear on me.

There's something at the heart of Pale Fire which feels vacant and untrue,
despite the pyrotechnics of the narrative technique, and the more I think
about it the more I think the problem is the homophobia inherent in the
work. Somehow, in Lolita, Nabokov was able to create a complex and
(almost) sympathetic pedephilic narrator. Part of the success of Lolita
is the tug of war between Humbert's guilt and his lust. There are echos
of guilt in Pale Fire, but they are distant and muted. Mr. Boyd makes the
argument that Kinbote too is guilty of child molesting, hence his exile
and suicidal nature. But he never convincingly wrestles with this guilt.
And all the caricatured homoerotic promiscuity seems a mere vehicle for
cheap laughs.

I don't know. This is my first posting to the group, so naturally I'm
unsure of myself, but I do think that Nabokov's homophobia in relation to
Pale Fire is little mentioned, at least in the literature I've consulted.
And I'd appreciate anyone's thoughts on the matter.

-Robert Myers
EDITOR's COMMENT: NABOKV-L thanks Robert Myers for his note below. Having
just re-read PF and Boyd's new book myself, I am a bit puzzled by
Mr. Meyer's idea. Although Nabokov's treatment of gay characters may, in
some of his works, fall
short of today's "political correctness" (something, in my view,
irrelevant to artistic merit), Boyd's new interpretation is extremely
sympathetic to Kinbote. Note that both Hazel and Shade generously
contribute to Kinbote's palliative fantasy and, no less important,
Kinbote's compassion for both Hazel and Queen Disa.