Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025202, Mon, 17 Mar 2014 11:37:09 -0300

RES: [NABOKV-L] Main characters in PF (M. Couturier)
C.Kunin: “But the only error I can see in calling the three main characters
S, K and G is that, if as Matt says it is the poem and not the novel that is
being indexed, the three main characters should by J, S and H (the Shades).
hmm - J,K; G,H; and S.”

Jansy Mello: For me, in the long run of arguments, it became quite obvious
that it’s not the poem that’s being indexed, but “the commentary” ( which is
“the work,” lovingly presented by a “writer”, C.K).[ ] C.Kinbote’s
emblematic signature using a chess “horse” (the Knight that cannot use the K
for his algebraic notation because the K serves the King) confirms this
“secondary” role in a royal court. This implies in that he is twice an
usurper: of a King’s place (there’s something in this line in “Solus Rex”
discussing the rightful heirs of a dying king) and of Shade’s poem.

M. Couturier: My feeling about who are the main characters in "Pale Fire"
hasn't changed in close to forty years, in fact since the first article,
written in English, that I published on Nabokov: I consider the author as a
key character. It is even more the case, I think, than in "LATH". "Pale
Fire" has greatly helped me articulate my theory of "the figure of the
author" (see "La Figure de l'auteur", Paris, Seuil, 1995)

Jansy Mello: I had been puzzled by the notation for the “Knight” as “N” and,
while investigating about it, I discovered there are games called “fairy
chess” where “N” represents a fairy “nightrider.”

I made a mistake in a former posting by associating this “nightrider” to the
Erlkönig proper, since in the lines, recited by C.Kinbote over and over
again during his flight and later reproduced in a commentary, it is a father
carrying a sick child the figure that rides in the night and wind. This
mistake, however, doesn’t annul the connection between C.K, the nightrider
and Goethe’s verses.

Maurice Couturier’s vision places the author, N, as a key character in the
novel: an interesting hypothesis to add to this mysterious imaginary figure
related to the King, to the Knight and to Fairy Chess.

When I googled after “Vladimir Nabokov Fairy Chess” I came to a very
interesting article relating the tactics of fairy chess problems to “Pale
Fire.” I’ll only bring up an excerpt and a link to the 1996 paper: CHESS AS
TEXT: NABOKOV'S PALE FIRE by Berndt-Peter Lange*

“Biographically, the composition of chess problems, more than tournament
play, was one of Nabokov's serious extra-literary occupations, to be
rivalled only by the study of butterflies. In his fictionalized
autobiography Speak, Memory, the author put the art of chess problem
composition on a level with his own poetry, and he deliberately placed the
two arts side by side int one book (in Poems and Problems).”

[ ] Life is here seen in terms of a game of chess between unknown players
indulging in another one of its special forms, fairy chess, whose rules
allow imaginary pieces to make irregular moves:

“... but there they were, aloof and mute,

Playing a game of worlds, promoting pawns

To ivory unicorns and ebon fauns;

Kindling a long life here, extinguishing

A short one there; killing a Balkan king;

[ ]…Making ornaments

Of accidents and possibilities. (II. 818-829)”

Along the same lines, Shade the poet eventually arrives at a view of the
intelligibility of life's "correlated patterns" through art - like his
poetry - "in terms of combinational delight" (971). As has been shown, the
combination in his own narrative concerns the conversion (as in pawn
promotion of chess) of the public event into private life - however futile
this might turn out to be. Like all of Nabokov's stories, Shade's is a
self-reflexive, skeptical one:

“How ludicrous these efforts to translate

Into one's private tongue a public fate!

Instead of poetry divinely terse,

Disjointed notes, Insomnia's mean verse! (11. 231-234)”

[ ]…..






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