NABOKV-L post 0002621, Tue, 16 Dec 1997 11:08:29 -0800

Re: Pale Fire and Boyd (fwd)
From: Paul Tudor <>
I would like to put a vote in for the Boyd reading, though I must
disclose my interest here as a post-graduate student when Boyd was
teaching a paper on Nabokov (prior to the publication of "The Russian
Years"). In fact, I came to the conclusion that Shade had invented
Kinbote before hearing Prof. Boyd's theory during our classes on PF (of
course, I have no proof of this, just as Kinbote has scant evidence of
his deep, personal friendship with Shade!)

I remember the moment well: having struggled with the structure of the
book (to have it read before the classes started), I had just finished
the last page of the Commentary and walked up to my friend's house near
the beach where I was staying. A butterfly crossed our path (it was
Spring) and, at that instant, I realised that "the web of sense"
extended to the structure of the book itself.

What better "friend" than an imaginary one? And by killing himself (or
rather his own "shadow") in his first major piece of fiction, does not
Shade "live on" as indeed any writer lives on through their words? What
about the resonances between the two works (Poem and Commentary): one
ordered, symmetrical, poetic; the other insane, unstructured, ugly? For
me, this is the strongest indication of the hand of one author...

Shade is clearly identified as a writer in PF, but by Kinbote? IE - if
Kinbote is mad, or lying, or both, who do we trust? Kinbote, that's who.
Ergo, "Everything I say is a lie".

And it has been interesting reading the postings over the past couple of
weeks where people have referred to Kinbote and his work, as if he TRULY
were a writer (though how many works by madmen are published? - perhaps
self-help books fit into this category?) Yet, at the simplest level,
both Kinbote and Shade are creations of Nabokov first...

As in many of Nabokov's other works, the complex of trapdoors does not
detract from the enjoyment the reader has of a merely literal reading of
the text. However, the shadows, mirrors and pale imitations that are set
up do provide additional experiences for those who venture forth. Boyd's
theory does not simply "explain away" PF (and why should it, Nabokov was
not in the habit of constructing mere detective stories), rather it is a
profoundly optimistic view of the portrayal, in PF, of the power of art
to transcend loss, despair and death.

A vote for Boyd.

>From: Donald Barton Johnson[]
>Reply To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
>Sent: Tuesday, 16 December 1997 14:12
>Subject: Re: Pale Fire and Boyd (fwd)
>> ----------------- Message requiring your approval (4 lines)
>Matthew Morris <>
>Speaking of PALE FIRE, what do members of this forum think of Boyd's
>reading of the book, and especially his conclusion that Shade created
>Kinbote? This has never sat well with me.
> -----------------------------------------------------------
>EDITOR NOTE. Although I always have a certain feeling of unease when
>disagreeing with Brian Boyd ("He must know something I don't."). I
>confess that his "Shade as author theory" has never satified me. I argue
>in _Worlds in Regression_ that both S and K (actually Botkin) exist and
>write their respective portions of the text.