Vladimir Nabokov

A Trip to Cedarn

By MARYROSS, 18 September, 2020

I just took a little trip in the Wayback machine,* set for “Cedarn,” and arrived in 1998 to discover (from Tom Bolt) that:


> “Cedarn” occurs in Coleridge’s Kubla Khan: “But oh! That deep romantic chasm which slanted/Down the green hill athwart a cedarn cover” (Lines 12-13)


>The venue is a mystical land.


> Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan while sequestering in a lonely farm-house. (Like Kinbote)


Then on to 8/21/2008 (Mathew Roth)


> ‘Cedarn” appears in Milton’s Comus: “That there eternal Summer dwells/And West winds, with musky wing/About the cedarn alleys fling/Nard, and Cassia’s balmy smels”


> The venue is the mythical idyllic Hesperus (aka “Arcadia”) and therefore intimating the Elyssian “beyond”.



Then visited Mathew Roth again, 11/13/2008


>  “Cedarn” means “made from cedar,” apparently a contracted adjectival form of a noun, such as “leathern” (or ‘oaken,’ ‘wooden,’ ‘silken’ etc.)

> Pencils are made from cedar

> “cedarn shade” was once a common phrase



I am continually and further-ly amazed at the dexterity with which Nabokov used his cedarn pencil. “Cedarn shade” may have once been a common phrase, but VN is not being cliché. It seems clear to me that, as usual in PF, there is not just one allusion here, and both Coleridge’s and Milton’s usages are intentional tropes in PF for “Arcadia,” the land of bliss “beyond.”


What I would like to add here, is how this trope dovetails with the trope of mirror opposites. “Cedar shade” suggests the cedar waxwing, whose death signifies young John Shade’s entrance to the blissful beyond. For Kinbote, it is just the opposite – Cedarn is Hell.


Kinbote had idyllic visions of intercepting the Shades’ Western vacation, only to find Cedarn “dry and drear…lifeless” (287 – the index says “288”?? a misprint?? based on Life everlasting?? Permalink)



*Wayback machine: 1960’s TV “Mr. Peabody and Sherman”


3 years 5 months ago

I just realized that misprint=imprints! (also "misprints" is almost an anagram of "spiritism")

I posted previously about archetype=imprint=footprint=divine spark Permalink

I am becoming quite convinced that misprints in PF are crucial clues to the major theme of "life everlasting." I prefer the word "transcendence" as it covers life after death plus the spiritual quest of transcendence of ego, and ultimately the transcendent nature of art.


3 years 5 months ago

I should correct my own “misprint” of sorts: MISPRINT does not “equal” IMPRINTS. They are in fact opposites, which is befitting of the double/mirror tropes of PF.


A search for “misprint” and “imprint” in the archives yields a number of posts on the trope of misprints in VN’s work. From Alexey Sklyarenko:


“the protagonist of VN's story Volshebnik ("The Enchanter," 1939) marries the mother of the little girl with whom he fell in love. He loves his step-daughter, but opechatka zhelaniya (the misprint of desire) distorts smysl lyubvi (the meaning of


Lust:Love = misprint:imprint = distortion:perfection = ego:self


Transparent Things, which is a sort of spoof on Nabokov’s own oeuvre, suggests the same relationships:


Dear Phil,

This, no doubt, is my last letter to you. I am leaving you. I am leaving you for another even greater Publisher. In that House I shall be proofread by cherubim - or misprinted by devils, depending on the department my poor soul is assigned to. (P 21)

Misprints are diabolical misrepresentations of angelic perfection.


He substituted an 'n' for the wrong letter and continued to scan the motley proof into which the blackness of closed vision was now turning. A double systole catapulted him into full consciousness again, and he promised his uncorrected self that he would limit his daily ration of cigarettes to a couple of heartbeats.” (23)


His “uncorrected self” is his lower, egoic self.


Had she passed here, had her soles once imprinted their elaborate pattern in that clay?”


This suggests the “immortal imprint” of Oleg’s shoe in PF – i.e. his sole/soul.


“It was not a hexagonal beauty of Virginia juniper or African cedar, with the maker's name imprinted in silver foil, but a very plain, round, technically faceless old pencil of cheap pine, dyed a dingy lilac.”  (3)


I believe this is an intended reverse of PF’s cedarn pencil. The “maker” suggests the Creator-god, Demi-urge; this old pine pencil is a fake inferior creation – i.e. like the ego.  The lilac might possibly refer back to Kinbote’s homosexuality.



3 years 5 months ago

I want to mention some other misprints in PF found in the archives:


Mathew Roth mentions James Ramey’s astounding discovery of misprints in the Index that lead to the surreptitiously placed chess-queen crown on the title page. (Ramey’s paper, PALE FIRE’s Black Crown, should be required reading!) Mathew in addition  mentions that “Oswin” is not italicized for “Bretwit, Oswin.”


>I am sorry to say that in my Everyman’s edition of PF the “Oswin” “misprint” has been “corrected.” Sorrier still that there is no Black Crown on the title page. Makes me wonder what secrets were passed on to publishers (and translators), if any.


The same problem may have occurred with Colin Larches Nabokovian Note, “A FALSE MISPRINT IN PALE FIRE” where his discovery of “bathouse” has now been corrected to “bathhouse.”


>A bathouse suggests Kinbote’s cave and the subterranean tunnel.



Carolyn Kuhn noticed a misprint on page 276 of Everyman’s, “where, I suppose, they are still lying as snug as my gemmed scepter, ruby necklace, and diamond-studded crown in – no matter, where.”


>I believe this is not only a misprint, but also what I think is called a “charade.” With a comma, “no matter where” becomes “no matter, where.”

The clues are: “where,” the “crown jewels,”  “no matter” and again “where.” Where are the crown jewels? In Kobaltana, of course! Where is Kobaltana? In an immaterial realm of “no matter,” that’s “where.” (see my Nabokovian79 Note on Kobaltana )



I posted some misprints from the Index previously but have some more to add:


“his fear that S might leave before finishing their joint composition, 288

This is actually under “287” – there is no “288”


“his waiting vainly for S on July 15th, 338

This is actually under “334” – there is no “338”


I think it is possible that, although the Commentary shows 287, or 338, the Index is pointing to the real clues in the Poem lines 288 and 334.


Line 288 is “A suitcase or the farcical car sack/With round-trip zipper.”

If one were to interpret this psycho-spiritually (which I do with Jungian hints), “baggage” is often colloquially used as burdensome issues in the personality. “Round-trip” is the notion of metempsychosis (transmigration of the soul), which theme runs through PF.


Line 338 is “On days when all the streets/Of College Town led to the game…”

Well, “game” is a pretty big hint. The two New Wye streets I am aware of are “Dulwich Rd.” and “Lake Rd.”  I suggest that “Dulwich” means “dull witch,” referring to Sybil (the witch of Ironwood’), and “Lake” referring to Hazel’s drowning, but also to the three lakes Omega, Ozero, and Zero, which all indicate zero. (I can’t remember where I read about the importance of the zero and these lakes, if anyone knows, let me know.) Zero is the void, or nothing, the Grand Neant. (The Grand Neant is also Botkin (nikto b/no one))


It seems to me that all the misprints can be interpreted as clues to the meta-theme of PF of transcendence and also, I imagine to the ultimate solving of Hazel’s barn message.


3 years 5 months ago

Late breaking news, (apologies if this is getting overwhelming):


It just occurred to me that the streets of College Town, Dulwich Rd. and Lake Rd. all lead to Wordsmith College! This suggests not only the importance of word-play (a marrowsky) and of Romantic poets, but also the meaning of "wordsmith," that is, "writer", which is of course Botkin/Nabokov.  All the themes, allusions, clues, etc. lead here. This is the meta-meta-theme of "transcendence" – of art and the artist.

So, looking up "marrowsky," which Kinbote/Nabokov curiously placed in the Index, I noticed that there is no page number given. Another misprint! and it dovetails with Dulwich and Romantic poets (Browning who was inspired by a walk in Dulwich forest for Pippa Passes (also a marrosky!))


"Now he was walking with another companion. Limpidly do I remember one perfect evening when my friend sparkled with quips, and marrowskies, and anecdotes, which I gallantly countered with tales of Zembla and hairbreadth escapes! As we were skirting Dulwich Forest, he interrupted me to indicate a natural grotto in the mossy rocks by the side of the path under the flowering dogwoods. This was the spot where the good farmer invariably stopped, and once, when they happened to be accompanied by his little boy, the latter, as he trotted beside them, pointed and remarked informatively: "Here Papa pisses."

"hairbreadth" should be "hair's breadth" - another misprint!


3 years 5 months ago

Obvious, but important Misprints:


“Frank…has asked me to mention in my Preface…that I alone am responsible for any mistakes in my commentary. Insert before a professional. A professional proofreader has carefully rechecked the printed text of the poem against the phototype of the manuscript, and has found a few trivial misprints I had missed.”


            Nabokov first signals the game of misprints in Pale Fire’s Foreword with the gaffe “Preface,” for he has already titled it “Foreword.” A foreword is someone other than the author; a preface is the author’s introductory notes. Then right after stating that he alone is responsible for mistakes, he makes one, leaving the galley mark “insert before a professional.” He alone IS responsible since a professional has apparently only checked the poem.

            The big clue is, of course, Line 803 of the poem, “Life Everlasting – based on a misprint!” This meta-clue suggests a key to interpreting the misprints – the meta-theme of transcendence (a misprint = spirit man). In the  “fountain/mountain” misprint both visions are symbols of transcendence. The image of a mighty mountain (the ‘majestic touch’) is cliché as the transcendent dwelling place of the gods. Shelly’s poem Mont Blanc is about the transcendent grandeur he feels regarding the majestic mountain. Fountains are frequent transcendent symbols of overflowing source. In alchemy this is the “mercurial fountain” of aqua vitae. The experience of kundalini is sometimes described as a fountain of mystic energy flowing up the spine, emerging out the head into the ineffable yet irrefutable realm of expansion and quiddity such as Shade experienced.

            Another obvious clue in plain sight is “Finnigan’s” for “Finnegans.” I have posted previously some of my ideas about Pale Fire being a parody of Northrup Frye’s Archetypal Literary Criticism and the importance of his comments on Finnegan’s Wake in the structure and themes of Pale Fire, viz the Jungian concept of characters as archetypes in the unconscious mind, the importance of the anima, and the “hero’s journey” of individuation (psycho-spiritual transcendence). Frye based his understanding on Jungian Joseph Campbell’s A Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake. It would also seem to be Nabokov’s intent to artistically transcend Joyce, transcend criticism through parody of Frye and Campbell, and refute Jung’s psycho-spiritual theories.


Also: Another College Town street is the Shakespeare avenue of trees. He doesn't give it a name, but clearly it is thematic.


3 years 5 months ago

I have finally bit the bullet (ow) and have begun tackling Finnegans Wake (with the help of Joseph Campbell’s Skeleton Key.) I imagine it could take decades before I would be able to say anything definite about it. However, from my novice point of view I am seeing many parallels between FW and PF.

            Suppose, for instance, VN read FW with the aid of JC’s Skeleton Key (1944); the following quote would seem to be astoundingly suggestive of the “misprint/imprint/divine spark/archetype/life-secret” trope in the above thread: 


“Indeed, the baffling obscurity of Finnegans Wake may be due to the author’s determination to muddy the track of his narrative with a thousand collateral imprints, lest we trace him to the scene of his own life-secret.” (Campbell & Robinson, The Skeleton Key to Finnegans Wake, New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1944, p.361)


(I am, of course, suggesting too, that PF is a veiled cryptic autobiography)

Alexey Sklyarenko

3 years 5 months ago

Botkin (Shade + Kinbote + Gradus) is not Nabokov, Pale Fire is not "a veiled cryptic autobiography." In VN's (quite correct) opinion, Joyce's Finnegans Wake was a great artistic failure. Speaking of misprints, in his poem Anemony ("Anemones," 1911) Sasha Chyorny (whose pseudonym means "black") says that he is stubbornly correcting opechatki (misprints) in the crazy book of being:


Сорвавши белые перчатки

И корчась в гуще жития,

Упорно правлю опечатки

В безумной книге бытия.

Увы, их с каждой мыслью больше

Их так же трудно сосчитать,

Как блох в конце июля в Польше —

Поймал одну, а рядом пять…

Но всех больней одна кусает:

Весь смрадный мусор низких сил

Себя вовеки не узнает,

Ни здесь, ни в прочном сне могил!

Всю жизнь насилуя природу

И запятнав неправдой мир,

Они, тучнея год от году,

Как боги, кончат злой свой пир…

И, как лесные анемоны,

С невинным вздохом отойдут…

Вот мысль страшней лица Горгоны!

Вот вечной мести вечный спрут!


Vot mysl' strashney litsa Gorgony (This is a thought more terrifying than Medusa's face), the poem's penultimate line, brings to mind a Medusa-locked hag whom Judge Goldsworth (Kinbote's landlord) resembles.


At the end of Pamyati A. M. Chyornogo ("In Memory of A. M. Chyorny," 1932) VN mentions Chyorny's gentle, charming shade:


Мне неприятно, повторяю, соваться со своей автобиографией, да и кажется, не я один могу вспомнить его помощь, - мне только хотелось как-нибудь выразить запоздалую благодарность, теперь, когда я уже не могу послать ему письма, писание которого почему-то откладывал, теперь, когда все кончено, теперь, когда от него осталось только несколько книг и тихая, прелестная тень.


The maiden name of Botkin's wife was Lastochkin. Sasha Chyorny's poem Pervaya lastochka ("The First Swallow") is addressed to President Hoover and written "in the manner of Walt Whitman." Walt Whitman was "a good grey poet." Kinbote calls Shade "bad grey poet."


3 years 4 months ago


The Finnigan's/Finnegans error is, I believe, an unintentional flub by VN. The reason I say this is because we have a notecard (slipped into the holograph manuscript) from 3 Aug 1957 with VN's note: "Snatch of conversation: I have always felt that Finnigan's Wake is but an extension of Robert Southey's letter . . ."  See my article on the Composition of PF. This was years prior to his formally beginning the writing of the novel.

Another intriguing (to me) misprint is the substitution of Catskin for Catkin. Here is what I wrote back in 2007:

"Since asserting last week that there is a relationship between the catkin
(ament) in Pale Fire and Princess Catskin, I've learned that these very
similar words were twice the source of a misprint in VN's works. In the
Grosset & Dunlap edition of Speak, Memory, page 174, we get "Catskin Week,
with its squeaking and popping din." This was later corrected, but it then
happened again in 1962 Putnam Pale Fire, where on page 151 we find "tubes
hawked during Catskin Week on the boulevards." This error was seemingly
vexing enought to VN that he corrected it in an interview that appears in
SO: "On page 151, 'Catskin Week' should be 'Catkin Week.'" (75)
I imagine this double mistake is all just a coincidence, but it's a kind of
strange one, especially in the context of my own hypothesis. Didn't VN say
somewhere that he placed some errors in his works on purpose? If I ever get
back to the LOC, I'd like to check and see what his handwritten card said."

After I wrote that post, I was indeed able to check the card, and found that VN wrote "Catskin." Given that VN clearly knew about the SM misprint (since it was corrected in later editions), isn't it curious that he would make the same error in the PF manuscript and then not catch it in any of the three sets of galley proofs that he went over prior to printing? Curious, but not impossible, alas. So ultimately hard to know what to make of it.

Matt Roth


3 years 4 months ago

Matt, your information is very interesting. I am glad to see that misprints have long been your own hypothesis. It seems VN was bedeviled with misprints, both his own unintentional and publishers' errors. It seems clear to me from Ramey's work and from VN's "fountain/mountain" and the decoding of "a misprint = spirit man = life everlasting" that he intended certain misprints. Perhaps he was even making fun of himself when he wrote Finnigan's into PF! (more indication of veiled autobiography, right?)

BTW, I found another potential misprint suggestion from the archives. 1/16/2010 There was a discussion about "larvarium/larvorium." PF has "larvorium" while ADA has "larvarium" (correct). Jansy Mello wrote: "Query to Boyd: Is "larvorium", in Shade's poem, a misprint???????" I was not able to find a reply. 

I think it is an important "clue" pointing to the meta-theme of transcendence. I think all the misprints probably point to the main themes of life/death, resurrection, spiritism, etc. but I like the word "transcendence" because it covers the transcendent state of Art.


3 years 4 months ago

This is a quote from James Ramey's Black Crown suggesting that Finnigan's was likely intentional (and likely a profiting from a previous mistake!):


Alfred Appel, Jr., asked Nabokov about an apparent mistake in Pale Fire in which the title of Finnegans Wake appears with an “i” for the “e” in “Finnegans,” and also with a possessive apostrophe, thus apparently correcting Joyce’s obviously intentional error while throwing in a new one for good measure.2 But Nabokov would have been familiar with Stephen’s quip in Ulysses: “A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery” (243). So his response to Appel is tantalizing: “You say you don’t understand the mistakes of tricksters but they would not be tricksters if they did not profit by their own tricky mistakes.” Nabokov thus seems to be suggesting that just as the title of Finnegans Wake functions to “trick” readers into catching a mistake that really isn’t one (a subject brilliantly explored by Tim Conley in his book Joyces Mistakes), the author of Pale Fire may intend to profit from apparent “mistakes” or misprints in the text that are “tricky”—and perhaps even to transform those “volitional errors” into his own “portals of discovery.”




3 years 4 months ago

Also, Matt, re: catkin,

I posted a word-play on ament/catkin previously (http://thenabokovian.org/node/35840). This word-play eventually leads to a transcendent state – a "brown study."

So I think it may be entirely possible that VN was being triply tricky in the SO interview you mentioned. He may actually have been purposefully directing attention to his purposeful misprint! 

My Everyman edition has "Catkin." Probably mis-corrected by the publisher! I think the original Putnam should probably be consulted for misprints.


3 years 4 months ago

Here are two more “MISPRINTS” suggesting the "SPIRIT MAN" and "IMPRINT/archetype" theme :



P243: “…Lafontaine was wrong/Dead is the mandible, alive the song”

 and C238: “Lafontaine's La Cigale et la Fourmi”


“Lafontaine” should be “La Fontaine”


La Fontaine’s fable speaks to the theme of the spirit out-living the body.

It also suggests Gradus v. G. Emerald as trickster opposites (see my Nabokovian NOTE 77, “The Man in Green and the Man in Brown”   (https://thenabokovian.org/node/35665)



C57: (a variant)

“All doors have keys. Your modern architect

 Is in collusion with psychanalysts:…”


“psychanalysts” should be “psychoanalysts”


I had assumed the omitted “o” was for the purpose of scansion, but maybe it is also a purposeful “misprint.” There is no “o” in my Everyman edition, but the online “24grammata.com” edition there is an “o.” I wonder about other editions, esp. the original Putnam’s.


I especially feel this is an important thematic clue since it supports my Jungian theory of PF.

I don't believe this is a misprint. It's psychanalyst in the Putnam's and every other print edition I have seen. You are right that it's for the purpose of scansion. Shade uses strict accentual-syllabic, ten-syllable lines. I don't believe he uses any triple feet.



3 years 4 months ago

OK, thanks Matt. I suppose it could still be an intentional misprint clue, and I suppose the correct way would have been with an apostrophe, but I guess I'll leave it as a question mark.

It seems to me that if VN intended misprints that there would have been very specific instructions to pass on to publishers and translators. I know you have spent time in the Berg Collection - do you think there may be anything helpful there?

The one intended misprint I'm sure of is Kinbote's use of forward instead of foreword. In the galley proofs, the proofreader marked this for VN's inspection, and VN replied "STET" (meaning leave it be). I have to think hare's breath is also an intentional mistake.



3 years 4 months ago

Matt, where exactly is this "foreword/forward" misprint? I just went through the Foreword (in my 1992 Everyman edition) and I can't seem to find a misuse of either word (other than the foreword/preface mistake). I also searched both words on the online "24Grammata" edition. 

It would appear that the intentional misprint has been unintentionally misprinted. However VN's "STET" surely indicates his intention. It would not really make sense to make just that one intentional misprint, so you would assume intentional misprints throughout would have some sort of thematic meaning.


In going over the foreword again, I noticed another possible misprint:

Shade is seen leaning on a sturdy cane that had belonged to his aunt Maud

There should either be a comma after "aunt" or it should be capitalized. It is otherwise capitalized throughout.

The forward/foreword misprint is in the note lines 376-377 (same one with English Litt). My suspicion is that this really was VN's mistake, but when the proofreader pointed it out, he decided to give it to Kinbote.



3 years 4 months ago

Well, well.  I just discovered in the archives that in 2010 there was some discussion about a misprint of "English Litt" .(http://thenabokovian.org/node/11487 ) Apparently some publishers have "Litt" and some (like my Everyman's) have "Lit"

Of course, English Literature is one of the major motifs of PF. My guess is that this was purposeful and then "miscorrected" in later additions.


3 years 4 months ago

I just discovered in the archives from 2001 a discussion of misprints in PF (http://thenabokovian.org/node/29942). According to Brian Boyd:

No editions of any of Nabokov's works have yet been prepared collating the published texts against manuscripts, typescripts, proofs and serial publications.

Possible errors in Pale Fire that were either left unemended because uncertain, or that I have noted after the Library of America editions were
prepared, are, by page and line number of the first edition (asterisks mark possible deliberate "errors"):

21.12: salad,] salad <noted by Tony Fazio>
*46, poem 370: chtonic] chthonic
58.poem 667: caterpillar] caterpillar,
*105.26: loosing] losing
187.03: confusely] confusedly
*194.06: Litt] Lit
204.07: 440] 445
231.2: 664] 662
237.23: boys] boys,
244.17: 747] 741
275.08: $11,000,000] "$11,000,000
301.06: principles] principals
308.13: S] S <italics>
308.15: S] S <italics>
314.07: K <italics>] K.
315.09: S] S <italics>


I think the "chtonic" and "Litt" are likely intentional because they speak to important themes


3 years 4 months ago


Thanks, Matt. I was not aware of that misprint. It is "forward" in my Everyman's edition. It certainly is one often made (myself included if reading or typing fast). Intentional misprints seem so obvious to me now, that I can’t imagine VN did not do a thorough going-over. I suspect it was intentional, though, pointing back to the Foreword as a clue to the subject of misprints contained there, but less obvious than if it were in the midst of the other misprints. I think, like VN says in SO, that he hates to have to point such things out, that is, in his game of hide-n-seek he wants to be found, but not easily, like in that short story where the boy is the only one left hiding and the game has already been abandoned.

It's one thing to have misprints for 'fun' (messing with the reader), but quite another if they can be seen as relating to thematic designs. I think, if I may say so, that solving the IMPRINTS/MISPRINT/SPIRIT MAN suggests the main them (in capital letters!) I would suggest that testing a possible misprint for thematic value would be a way to determine whether or not it was intentional. 



BTW, I happened to be going over your excellent and informative article, The Composition of Nabokov’s PALE FIRE (http://www.nabokovonline.com/volume-9.html), wherein you mention the misprint of “Finnigan’s” and how VN had used the misspelling in a note from 1957


Comment: Some have argued that Nabokov intentionally caused Kinbote to misspell the title of Joyce’s work (Finnigan’s instead of Finnegan’s) in the note to line 12, but the card reveals that Nabokov himself was misspelling Joyce’s work as far back as 1957. More proof that “Finnigan’s” is an unintentional mistake can be found in Nabokov’s corrections to the subsequent Penguin edition, where he explicitly directs the copy editor to change “Finnigan’s” to “Finnegan’s” (“Corrections”).


I see no reason why he may not have intended a misprint in the 1957 note – if he was thinking along those lines. Interestingly, “Finnegan’s” would still be a misprint, as Joyce has it as “Finnegans” ­– plural, not a possessive comma. The characters in Finnegans Wake are all archetypes in one man’s psyche. “Waking up,” becoming “conscious,” is the great monomyth (Jungian ‘individuation’) I argue that PF is likely a response to FW. There are many correspondences, especially this one of archetypal characters in the unconscious.

Ha, yes, I realized belatedly that I messed it up myself even as I was trying to explain it. Fitting. I am tempted by all of these assumptions, I confess, but I also know that VN could be surprisingly careless at times (as when he messes up the number of letters/attempts in the barn scene, and when he messes up the dates, or number of days, in Lolita). See Boyd:  https://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/boyd3.htm Maybe someone could catalogue all the 1st edition misprints across the whole of his canon, and then we would see if there is really a difference in PF.



3 years 4 months ago

Yes, it would be interesting if ‘someone’ checked across the whole canon. I hope someone does; it would make a great thesis. I am only really comfortably familiar with PF. The address link you gave for Boyd was ‘not found’ for some reason. From what I gather from his post above from 2001, the Library of America edition is the most reliable, having been corrected by Vera, Dmitri and Boyd himself. However, this was 2001, before Ramey’s discoveries, so I have to think a number of the grammatical marks corrected in the Index might have indeed been purposeful. I think the original Putnam’s would be the only truly reliable source. (Perhaps I will even break down and buy it for $167!)


Apparently, the issue of misprints has been around quite a while, but as far as I know, no real ‘reason’ has been given their relation to the text. I think in PF, at least, there are enough reasons to be irrefutable. I will summarize here:


> “Misprints” is mentioned in the Foreword.

> “Misprint” is mentioned 8 times, “imprint” 2 times, “spirit” 20 times, “print” 26 times (includes misprint and imprint)

> The better part of Canto III is the story of the fountain/mountain misprint.

> John Shade’s epiphany is “Life everlasting  –based on a misprint!”

> “A MISPRINT = SPIRIT MAN (Life everlasting)

> Shade’s epiphany is “the real point,” there is a “correlated pattern in the “GAME,” it is a “GAME of worlds,” involving “ornaments of ACCIDENTS” (misprints), "hiding my keys" = his "key" themes are hidden as part of the game

(“A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery” (243). So his response to Appel is tantalizing: “You say you don’t understand the mistakes of tricksters but they would not be tricksters if they did not profit by their own tricky mistakes.” ) 

> Footprint = Imprint = Stamp = Archetype = divine spark  (Shade’s footprint as his “secret stamp, the Shade imprint,” the ‘everlasting’ spirit.)

> Footprint suggests shoes and therefore Botkin (shoemaker), the true ‘self’ of all the PF character archetypes. (Kinbote - a kind of "misprint" of Botkin, makes a point of discussing the etymology of the name.)

> If “imprint” is the true self/spirit, then the false self (ego and archetypes) are “misprints.”

> If PF, like FW, is about archetypes in one man’s unconscious mind, then we might say that there is a straight line running through Jung – Joyce – Campbell – Frye – PALE FIRE. All posit the ‘monomyth’ (Life-Death-Resurrection as the main theme of the Western Canon). I believe PALE FIRE in particular is Nabokov’s response to this era’s trajectory of literature.


It appears that the whole trope of Nabokov’s misprints (in PF, at least) appertains to the ‘monomyth,’ and that would be an appropriate way of determining intention.




Alain Champlain

3 years 4 months ago

Misprints are tricky business... The link Matthew Roth posted (which works just fine for me) is to an article called "Even Homais Nods": Nabokov's Fallibility, or, How to Revise Lolita. If the link still doesn't work, I beseech you: find, read, absorb.

I often worry, when reading your posts, that what you think you see at the heart of Pale Fire is a reflection of what you're looking for. I value your ability to generate hypotheses, but I sincerely hope you're able to critically evaluate and reject when necessary — otherwise you'll keep finding Jung in every jungle (or, dare I say, every "rosy youth").

PS I hesitate to add fuel to the fire, but... it's possible that "MacDiarmid" is a misprint of "McDiarmid" and that "Lingo-Grande" should be "Lingo Grande" or "lingo grande" though I've seen counter-evidence for both. Note also that "Kongs-skugg-sio" (spelled several different ways, I believe) was written not in the "twelfth century" as Kinbote (or VN?) has it, but around 1250; nor was it quite "anonymous." The bigger joke though, with a moral punchline — one that echoes Boyd's refutations of accusations that VN put style above morality, among other things — is that Kinbote is lecturing on a document that teaches the responsibilities of a King, which lecturing is his own way of shirking those very responsibilities (notice the way this passage is sandwiched between "At forty, not long before the collapse of his throne," and “How far from this limpid simplicity seemed the palace and the odious Council Chamber with its unsolvable problems and frightened councilors!”).

McDiarmid: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Striking_and_Picturesque_Delineations_of_the_Grand,_Beautiful,_Wonderful,_and_Interesting_Scenery_Around_Loch-Earn

Southey: https://archive.org/stream/selectionsfromle03sout/selectionsfromle03sout_djvu.txt



3 years 4 months ago

Alain, I appreciate your comments. The link to Brian’s article worked today – must have been a temporary glitch. I very much appreciated that article, too. I understand that misprints are tricky, especially when it seems pretty clear that some of them are intended. That is why I suggest testing to see whether they point to textual themes.  The ones you point out here seem “iffy” due to variable transliterations, for instance, although they do point to themes such as Nordic literature and Exploration.  


I particularly liked the quotes of Nabokov’s in Brian’s article, as they clearly suggest again VN’s intentions to use misprints:


" ... the New Yorker's wonderful research department several times saved Mr. Nabokov, who seems to combine a good deal of absentmindedness with his pedantism from various blunders regarding names, numbers, book titles and the like." 1

1. From Nabokov's pseudo-review of Conclusive Evidence (LCNA, Box 5), intended at the time of writing to form a sixteenth chapter in the book version, but then omitted.


As if this were not enough, he has said, in discussing the editing of Eugene Onegin: Even obvious misprints should be treated gingerly; after all, they may be supposed to have been left uncorrected by the author. 7


As for seeing Jung everywhere, I can’t help it. I saw the basic outlines the first time I read PF (3 years ago) and the more I’ve delved into it, the more it all seems to coalesce. I understand that this is a hard sell. Like the story of the natives who could not see Columbus’ ships on the horizon because they had no reference for such a thing, one tends to see what one knows and overlook what is obvious to others. Jung was at the acme of his reputation in the 50’s, but even then he was not much taught in Universities and Behavioralism subsequently took over psyche departments. Even well-educated people only know him as a name, with a few tags attached. Jung is someone you have to find on your own if interested in metaphysics. Metaphysics gives many others the heebie-jeebies.

Unlocking the secrets of metaphysics in a way spoils all the fun. You begin to be aware that the most important things in human life have been discovered over and over again, so “have some more fish” as Krug says. How to be truly original and profound – that is what Nabokov was up against, especially since Joyce won the prize (literally and figuratively) by saying it all and saying it uniquely original. That is why I think PF takes all this monomyth stuff and in the end turns it on its head, by the characters failing to transcend and leaving Sybil on the loose. (But that’s another kettle of fish.)


I do not contend that Jung is the be-all-end-all of PF, but this is my focus and it continues to play out in a way which surprises even me – especially now that I see the link to literary criticism through Joseph Campbell and Northrup Frye. There is a lot more to PF’s many layers, but I would not be one to write about, for instance, the influence of Henri Bergson, or chess, or symbolist poets, or Russian puns, history, etc. I know a little about Jung, and I enjoy word-play, so those are my two foci and I am terribly excited when they converge (as in A MISPRINTS = SPIRIT MAN).


Again, I appreciate your comments; it gets a little lonely and awkward out here, but I keep seeing things that I feel are worth noting, so I keep posting, and keep hoping to have real discussion. If I need to be corrected, that’s fine – I’m an amateur.  It would be more helpful, though, to be specific. For instance, what in particular in all of the above about misprints would you not agree with? i.e. does “SPIRIT MAN” not mean “Life-Everlasting”? Is the theme of Life/Death/Resurrection not the main theme of PF? Are these not major concerns of Jung/Joyce/Campbell/Frye? Why?


Best, Mary

Alain Champlain

3 years 4 months ago

I'll push back and say I think Nabokov was quite confident in his originality, especially at the time he was writing Pale Fire. I don't think there was any 'anxiety of influence' (to quote a different Bloom).

Here are a few fun quotes on the topic of 'winning the prize' (not meant as a counter-argument, since they're from after PF).

"At the end of 1999, when the Modern Library wanted to pick the novel of the century, they asked writers like A. S. Byatt, William Styron, Gore Vidal and Daniel Boorstin to vote for their novel of the century. Lolita came first. But because the Modern Library published Ulysses but not Lolita, they fudged the results and found a way to place Ulysses first." (My best attempt at a transcription from Boyd's speech, which can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNBTwzXw9t0 around 5:33)

"By the second half of the 1960s he was often acclaimed the greatest writer alive, the standard against which other writers should be measured, the one certain choice for a Nobel Prize." (VNAY p.518)

"After the Nobel Prize went to Solzhenitsyn in 1970, Solzhenitsyn wrote to Nabokov that he was far more deserving of the award, and acting on that conviction he nominated Nabokov himself. But whatever other writers, reviewers, and readers may have thought, the Swedish Academy never managed to agree on Nabokov." (VNAY p.573)



Regarding Jung, resurrection, etc... this might sound like a non-answer, but I'm less concerned with the times I think you're provably wrong (that's often fun, engaging, productive — our Picasso discussion comes to mind), and I'm much more concerned when your analysis veers into the realm of the unfalsifiable.

If I'm trying to answer your question more directly: I think SPIRIT MAN is a lovely trouvaille, very nice actually, but I'm not entirely convinced it was intentional. It could have been, but my guess, based on the evidence so far, is that it's a happy accident that VN didn't notice. It fits the themes, yes. And it fits the conclusions of the better PF essays and books. BUT I'm especially not convinced that it then points to Jung, any more than it would automatically point to Jesus Christ or John Law (whose stories were resurrected in The Spirit). And if the idea is that Jung unites Christ and Law, I (a good little Nabokovian and secularist) would have to protest.

I think the best way to illustrate my reaction is by referencing a parallel: Woodin Rowe's Nabokov's Deceptive World and its 'unearthing' of hidden sexual references in VN's work. Do I see sex in many Nabokov novels? Yes. Would it be possible to write a book that properly catalogues and comments on sex in his work? Yes. But sex, like death, or misprints, is tricky: "'Eye' can mean female pudendum, Rowe declares, and therefore so can the letter 'i,' and therefore the same thing can be implied in the 'I' that begins Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa." (VNAY p.585, highly recommended)

I find VN's retort especially pertinent to our discussion (though I intend none of its venom):

One may wonder if it was worth Mr. Rowe's time to exhibit erotic bits picked out of Lolita and Ada—a process rather like looking for allusions to aquatic mammals in Moby Dick. But that is his own choice and concern. What I object to is Mr. Rowe's manipulating my most innocent words so as to introduce sexual "symbols" into them. The notion of symbol itself has always been abhorrent to me.... The symbolism racket in schools attracts computerized minds but destroys plain intelligence as well as poetical sense. It bleaches the soul. It numbs all capacity to enjoy the fun and enchantment of art.... Pencil-licking is always a reference to you know what. A soccer goal hints at the vulval orifice (which Mr. Rowe evidently sees as square).

... The fatal flaw in Mr. Rowe's treatment of recurrent words, such as "garden" or "water," is his regarding them as abstractions, and not realizing that the sound of a bath being filled, say, in the world of Laughter in the Dark, is as different from the limes rustling in the rain of Speak, Memory as the Garden of Delights in Ada is from the lawns of Lolita. (VNAY p.585-586)



3 years 4 months ago

Thanks for the pushback, Alain. I try to keep my posts fairly short and concise, and there is always so much more to say, so some pushback dialogue is more productive and interesting for all concerned (I hope, anyway). 


>"Prize:" I'd vote for VN any day. However I am just now sinking my teeth into Finnegans, and it is GREAT. Joyce deserves his stature.

Joyce and Eliot are the two big names for the 20th Century, both Nobel prize winners. Nabokov admired Ulysses but sniffed at FW and detested Eliot with a venom almost equal to his excoriations of Freud.  I think one has to be even more careful with VN's condemnations than his misprints. It seems to me that one wouldn't need to be a psychologist to see that the closer one got to "stepping on his most tender corns" (Gurdjieff) the more reactionary and defensive he became. Nabokov was particularly effective in scaring off critics, especially once Rowe was demolished. Although I haven't read it, I am familiar a bit with the Rowe controversy and I take it as a case in point. I don't particularly care for that sort of Freudian symbolism either, especially if is to analyze the writer rather than the writer's intent. OK, so I'm kind of doing that right now, but this is more "off-the-record" personal opinion. Jung broke with Freud over his insistence on the Oedipal complex and that the unconscious was merely repressed wishes. Jung devoted himself to understanding the creative aspects of the unconscious - he was really an artist/seer manque. 


>Jung: There is so much more I could say to this. First of all, I want to make clear that I am not analyzing PF from a Jungian perspective; there is a whole school of criticism devoted to Jungian literary analysis but I hope to demonstrate, at least very plausibly, that in the case of PF it seems likely to have been his intent. The whole trope of "borrowing," "stealing," "literary plagiarism" suggests that. 

I am not familiar with John Law, but a very overlooked aspect of VN's work, particularly noticeable in PF, BS, and ITAB, is Christ imagery. I recently posted a list of spiritual groups that PF referenced personages belonged to, in order to emphasize the spiritual concerns of the novel. Jung is one of them (member of the SPR, template for the IPH). Jung was very concerned with understanding the Christ image and the meaning of death & resurrection. He approached it from his study of alchemy and Gnosticism. This is evident throughout PF, but won't go into it here. 

Jung influenced both Joyce and Eliot. All three influenced Joseph Campbell and Northrup Frye. These were the Biggies on the contemporary literary scene. Why should it be unthinkable that Nabokov would borrow from them?


>SPIRIT MAN: Given all the clues that immediately follow "Life-everlasting based on a misprint," knowing VN's ludic lucidity (good one, eh?), his own statements about misprints, the many actual misprints, and all the evidence that points towards transcendence, including John Shade's quest and Vera Nabokov's comment on his primary concern being the "hereafter," I quite frankly can't see how this could be anything but intentional.

It seems that Joyce was never nominated for the Nobel prize (I suspect that Mary confuses him with W. B. Yeats, the Nobel Prize winner in 1923).

Alain Champlain

3 years 4 months ago

There are definitely multiple references to Eliot and Joyce. I even think there are a few extra Joyce references that people don't seem to agree with me on (e.g. the quoits). I wouldn't be surprised if specific provable Jung references turned up.

My point about Jesus and John Law wasn't that Nabokov wouldn't allude to either (yes, there are biblical references in PF — has anyone noted the reversed miracle of wine into water?) — my point was that resurrections, like the gardens and water he mentions in his retort to Rowe, aren't all the same. Nabokov was specific. In fact, not even all Nabokov resurrections are the same: the Attacus moth in "Christmas" is completely different from the ghosts of Transparent Things.

Regarding Spirit Man, one thing I think about when trying to confirm intent is: would there have been good options available if he had not wanted that anagram? (A few mediocre options listed below.) A Misprint will never not contain Spirit Man, just like Shade will never not contain Hades. Complex anagrams are often more intrinsically verifiable (Vivian Darkbloom, etc). (Note: I'm not talking about the trend I've seen on here of long strings of words which are made as if it equal another long string of words, which I find preposterous.) Simple anagrams usually need some external confirmation, like juxtaposing Moore and Romeo in Transparent Things, or tagging Osberg with biographical data “(Spanish writer of pretentious fairy tales and mystico-allegoric anecdotes, highly esteemed by short-shift thesialists)” to confirm the anagram of Borges in Ada. If Nabokov was aware of and intended Spirit Man, I would have expected some confirmation, like the use of the phrase elsewhere in the book. The phrase "Life Everlasting—based on a misprint!" is perfect as is, and already contains the theme of transcendence, so Spirit Man doesn't add anything to it besides a very happy echo.

Some possible alternatives, none of which I would trade for 'a misprint':
Life Everlasting—based on a mistake!
Life Everlasting—based on a typo!
Life Everlasting—based on a whoopsie!
Life Everlasting—based on a keystroke!
Life Everlasting—based on a false F!


3 years 4 months ago

Alain, I am very happy to continue sparring with you, although, ego aside, I really think everything I’ve presented above deserves a big fat Q.E.D.




> “miracle of wine into water”: I am not aware of this – in PF?


>"Christ:" What would you think of Balthasar the Gardener as Christ figure? His name reflects one of the magi, he arrives just after Easter and after he defeats the demonic shadow Gradus, Kinbote calls him "our savior." Alchemically, he seems the "dark Christ" figure that Jung writes about.


> “resurrections…aren’t all the same”: Of course not – except in essence. I prefer to use the word “transcendence” for what VN is aiming at, because it covers life after death, ego transcendence and artistic transcendence the latter which is always the real aim in his work.


>“Misprint” always “”Spirit Man:” Actually “MISPRINT” can also be “SPIRITISM,” another theme – séances, poltergeists, the IPH, etc. BTW, Jung presented his doctoral thesis to the SPR on the psychological meanings of mediums and poltergeists. Jane Provost pretty much paraphrases it: “(I now quote Jane P.) an outward

extension or expulsion of insanity." Hmm.


I also would reiterate what I mentioned above about IMPRINT = Man’s inner spirit, as in “the Shade imprint”. This leads to "footprints" as image for inner spirit and thus to Botkin the "shoemaker" as the creator. The opposite of IMPRINTS  is MISPRINT – i.e. the Imprint is the divine essence, the Misprint is the ego usurpation.  IMPRINT also means “archetype.” These are basic Jungian precepts. Hmm.


“external confirmation, like juxtaposing:”  Already mentioned all the clues that follow “Life-Everlasting based on a misprint.”  Hmm.

Life Everlasting - based on a Champlain (Champlain is the ocean liner on which the Nabokovs crossed the Atlantic in May, 1940)! 


3 years 4 months ago

BTW, Alexey, I forgot that I had dug up in the archives the following from you:


misprint in The Enchanter & in Pale Fire


Alexey Sklyarenko


Wed, 07/27/2016 - 13:28

Like Humbert Humbert in VN's novel Lolita (1955), the protagonist of VN's
story Volshebnik ("The Enchanter," 1939) marries the mother of the little
girl with whom he fell in love. He loves his step-daughter, but opechatka
zhelaniya (the misprint of desire) distorts smysl lyubvi (the meaning of


So it appears that VN was musing on the possibilities of misprints as far back as 1939. He is suggesting that lust is a perversion (misprint) of love (the imprint of spirit).  (also a good word-golf opportunity).  This is similar to the false self (ego) as distortion of the true essence (spirit). This is why it makes sense to view the characters in PF psychologically, as archetypes in Botkin's mind and why the idea of the "Hero's Journey," the path of purifying the unconscious and attaining the true self, in other words ego-death and resurrection, fits the main theme of transcendence in PF. In alchemy and Jung's paradigm, the opposites need to be reconciled for "individuation."  IMPRINTS/MISPRINTS, lust/love, hold the key to main theme; that is why Zembla is the land of mirror opposites. Zembla IS the unconscious. 

Smysl lyubvi ("The Meaning of Love," 1892-94) is a series of five essays by Vladimir Solovyov. In the fifth essay the author quotes four poems by Afanasiy Fet: Alter ego (1879), Izmuchen zhizn'yu, kovarstvom nadezhdy ("By life tormented and by cunning hope," 1864), Naprasno ("In Vain," 1852) and Poetam ("To the Poets," 1890). In 1857 Fet married Maria Botkin. The poet Shade, his commentator Kinbote (who imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla) and his murderer Gradus seem to represent three different aspects of mad Botkin's personality. An American scholar of Russian descent, Professor Vsevolod Botkin went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus after the tragic death of his daughter Nadezhda (Hazel Shade's "real" name). There is a hope (nadezhda) that, when Kinbote completes his work on Shade’s poem and commits suicide (on Oct. 19, 1959, the anniversary of Pushkin's Lyceum), Botkin, like Count Vorontsov (a target of Pushkin’s epigrams, “half-milord, half-merchant, etc."), will be full again. The "real" name of both Sybil Shade (the poet's wife) and Queen Disa (the wife of Charles the Beloved) seems to be Sofia Botkin, born Lastochkin. Lastochki ("The Swallows," 1884) is a poem by Fet. Vladimir Solovyov (whose brother Vsevolod was a novelist) is the author of a doctrine about Divine Sophia.


To solve Pale Fire (this is only a part of my solution) I did not need alchemy and Jung's paradigm, and I doubt that VN needed them when he wrote his novel.


3 years 4 months ago

Alexey, your solution is actually remarkably the same as what I've been putting forth, and no, you don't need Jung to arrive at it. However, it is a psychological interpretation, and the reason we even have psychological interpretations of sub-personalities is largely due to the advent of modern psychology. 

Psychologically, how do you see the three aspects of Botkin? It is very clear to me that they are analogous to Jung's shadow, ego, and persona and there is a lot of textual support for this. Jung developed the idea of sub-personalities beyond what Freud and others had done. Alchemy is a pervasive theme in PF and Jung was the foremost exponent of alchemy as a proto-psychological/spiritual system of inner purification. It seems unreasonable to presume that Nabokov would not have been aware of Jung's work. Alchemy and Jung also posit the importance of the feminine principle (anima), which in its higher wisdom aspect is called "Sophia."

According to Jung, the persona is usually the first and easiest archetype to confront and subsume, then the shadow, then the most difficult is the anima. That is why first Shade dies, then Gradus. As opposites they cancel each other. The antagonistic anima remains the issue, and Sybil flees the country, leaving Kinbote to suicide. This is a tricky issue where I am still not certain of Nabokov's intent. If Kinbote suicides without coming to terms with his anima, then it would not be a case of effecting a Jungian "individuation." Would this be VN's way of refuting Jung, alchemy, and Gnosticism and the crucial notion of the feminine? Or, does Kinbote's suicide actually effect an "ego-death," in which case we are left with a "redeemed" Botkin and his untamed muse to go forth and create Art? 

However, Kinbote knows that he will have to face (now or in another life) a "bigger, more competent Gradus," meaning, I take it, his anima, Sybil. 

I tend to think that Nabokov, like many artists, felt that if he rid himself of his demons, his angels would also flee, and PF ends with this conundrum.

Mary, the problem with your "psychological" interpretation is that it is not based on VN's text (which is obviously incomplete). Kinbote is right when he says that the unwritten Line 1000 of Shade's poem is identical in every word to Line 1: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain.” But it seems that, like some sonnets, Shade’s poem also needs a coda (Line 1001: “By its own double in the windowpane”). Shade's murderer, Gradus is Kinbote's double. Kinbote means in Zemblan "regicide." In his poem "January 29, 1837" Tyutchev calls d'Anthès (Pushkin's murderer) tsareubiytsa (a regicide). According to Kinbote, Gradus contended that the real origin of his name should be sought in the Russian word for grape, vinograd, to which a Latin suffix had adhered, making it Vinogradus. Vinograd (1824) is a poem by Pushkin. In the third acrostic of the cycle Safo ("Sappho," 1892-94) Vladimir Solovyov compares himself to stogradusnyi spirt (the 100 percent alcohol):


Спиртом сначала горел я стоградусным,
Адское пламя томительно жгло...
Факелом ныне елейным и радостным
Около Вас я пылаю светло.


Solovyov's cycle of eighteen acrostics was addressed to Sofia Martynov. Martynov is the name of Lermontov's murderer. Lermontov's poem Net, ya ne Bayron, ya drugoy... ("No, I'm not Byron, I'm another..." 1832) ends in the line: ya - ili Bog - ili nikto ("myself - or God - or none at all"). Botkin (Shade's, Kinbote's and Gradus' "real" name) is nikto b (none would), a phrase used by Mozart in Pushkin's little tragedy "Mozart and Salieri" (1830), in reverse.


3 years 4 months ago

Alexey, I think you should consider that your theory of Botkin splitting into three sub-personalities IS psychological and is actually supported by known psychology (viz Jung). I find your theory and mine basically mutually supportive. I am intrigued by how you arrived at Sybil as “Sofia” because that really fits the Jung paradigm.


However, I find many of your allusions tangential and hard to follow. For instance that Solovyov’s brother would have any real connection to Sybil or PF; or that Solovyov compares himself to alcohol is a link back to Pushkin’s Vinograd, which is a common word, even if used by VN’s hero. Do the lines of Pushkin’s poem suggest dark despicable Gradus in any way? If not, it seems a tenuous link, and even then, extending it to Solovyov's equally common usage is going out a bit far, don't you think?


I think “nikto b” is right on for Botkin. In the Jungian paradigm, and also in many spiritual traditions, the true self is a universal rather than a particular identity – hence nobody.


I argue that Gradus is Shade’s double, not Kinbote’s. Otherwise, who is it who collides in the windowpane? Kinbote is the ego between the idealized persona and the rejected shadow. The shadow and the persona are opposing archetypes; the idealized self, the persona, is “destroyed” when confronted with the rejected self, the shadow. The unconscious shadow, once becoming conscious is also “destroyed” by the ego’s awareness, and therefore cannot really continue to exist. That is why Gradus, aware that he is an impotent bungler self-destructs. Kinbote means “regicide” and that explains his solus rex suicide. This all fits the text perfectly.


There may or may not be a coda intended. But if there is, then the poem would end. With no coda it would be an ever-repeating cycle. The eternal return fits with the spiritual and occult aspects of PF (death & resurrection). It is the alchemic symbol of the uroborus, the snake biting its tail, which Jung claimed was the ultimate archetype of the wholeness of the self. It is a zero, the void, the absence of  “somebody” (i.e. without ego). It is also the trope used by Joyce in Finnegans Wake, with the unfinished last line returning to the beginning.


You and Alain have presented me with quite a challenge, which I have enjoyed. Respond, if you like, but, I need break for a few days.


Best, Mary




Mary, I don’t say that VN wasn’t aware of the works of modern psychiatrists, I merely say that one cannot explain VN’s novels using those psychiatrists’ methods (and terminology). As I said earlier, VN’s novels and stories are like chess problems and, to solve them, one has to think like their author (composer). I, too, am exhausted by our (rather fruitless) discussion, therefore I suggest that we stop it (whatever I would say, you will never abandon your “theory” anyway).

Alain Champlain

3 years 4 months ago

Quickly, I wanted to point out that "chtonic" is (99%) provably purposeful, as I noticed a couple years ago but failed to mention earlier in this conversation. I remember someone (Boyd I think?) writing that this might be how Hazel mispronounced the unfamiliar word. Anyhow, the proof would be Nabokov's own pronunciation in his 92Y Reading (a great listen for anyone who hasn't happened upon it yet), available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QzOt0bMmXjY ("chtonic" at around 31:45).


3 years 4 months ago

Alain, I’m glad you remembered this. I actually had “chtonic” on my misprints “list,” but neglected to mention it here. Brian Boyd mentions it in a listserve post about misprints, https://thenabokovian.org/node/29942  as probably deliberate. He also attributes to John Burt Foster the theory that it is Hazel’s mispronunciation.


I think the issue is whether chth is pronounced as one (American) or two (British) vowels, but that should not change the spelling to make it seem to be Hazel’s mispronunciation. VN uses the British pronunciation to fit the iamb. I just listened to several on-line pronunciations of both American and British, and some give more of a 'th' sound and some more towards a "t". I imagine the actual Greek pronunciation is one syllable that is not easy to duplicate in English.


I think because it is an important thematic word (relating to the Underworld, thus death/spirits etc.) it is most likely intended.


3 years 4 months ago

Also, I neglected to mention that according to the discussion https://thenabokovian.org/node/29942, "Triptych" was misspelled "Tryptich" originally, but has been "corrected." I think it quite possible, since it is thematic, that the 'misprint' was intentional.

Alain Champlain

3 years 4 months ago

The mispronunciation I was referring to has nothing to do with number of syllables, just the presence of a "t" sound as in "Tom" (coincidentally, earlier this morning I read the Method of Transliteration at the beginning of Nabokov's translation of Eugene Onegin) rather than "th" as in "thrombosis." I don't believe there are any "correct" pronunciations of chthonic that involve a "t" sound, considering the Greek origin of the word, with the "th" standing in for a theta. In the 92Y Reading, Nabokov distinctly pronounces the "t". I think I'll write a separate post expanding on the possible reasons for this misprint.

Re: the "Lafontaine" misprint, I wondered whether this might be (small chance) one of Nabokov's non-standard spellings (in keeping with Anna Karenin), but found confirmation in the Translator's Introduction in EO that he definitely spells it with the space. I'd wager this one is purposeful.

There's also another misprint nobody's mentioned yet: line 531-532 should read "the trail of silver slime/Snails leave on flagstones" ("on" not "or"). It's "or" in all the printed editions I have, and the ebook, and the audiobook too. The "or" is of course technically readable, but "on" is clearly the right word for the specific image and the sentence structure. If I had to guess, the penciled "n" looks like an "r" and it wasn't caught because it's just readable enough. Not part of any purposeful misprint game. Should be corrected.


3 years 4 months ago

>As I noted, I listened to a number of on-line pronunciations, and some, whether British or American, pronounced the aspirated th and others made it a t. So I think it has to do with how well or poor an English speaker can achieve the actual Greek sound. Nevertheless, although VN makes it a two-syllable (perhaps for scansion) and with a t, I don't think the idea that the misspelling was to demonstrate Hazel's mispronunciation. I believe it must be a purposeful misprint. I look forward to your expansion of this.


Again, I believe the 'purpose' of the misprints is to provide clues for the main theme of 'life-everlasting.'

>'Lafontaine': when you say purposeful, do you mean a purposeful misprint, or purposeful that it is not intended to be a misprint?  I did a google search on 'Lafontaine' and everything came up 'La Fontaine'. Maybe French google would be different. I think La Fontaine is important for Cigale & Fourmis thematic implication of opposites Gradus/G. Emerald (thenabokovian.org/node/35665). Also, Joyce makes quite a bit of this fable in Finnegans Wake.


>My Everyman edition of PF has "on flagstones." I do not see this listed on B. Boyd's list  https://thenabokovian.org/node/29942

I think it could be purposeful as a clue, suggesting that there is a 'trail' to follow with 'flag' stones, i.e. areas 'flagged' as clues.


>BTW, Alain (and forgive me for finding 'Jung' everywhere), one more comment on 'chthonic':  probably there is no one in the world (before 1959) who used the word more than Jung. Hyperbole, yes, but I would challenge anyone to come up with a book that has more instances of the word than his V.14, which I searched and found 20 'chthonic' and 4 'autochthonic'! The word is usually used in reference to the demonic side of mythology. No one delved as deeply into that as Jung, who laced his writing with abundant Greek (and probably pronounced it correctly!) I suspect that the word was not much in use previous to Jung's work on the unconscious and alchemy. Although in PF clearly the word refers to T.S. Eliot's Dry Salvages, Eliot was apparently influenced by Jung.

I just read Dry Salvages and, in very brief, it is about those moments of the intersection of the divine and mundane:

Here the impossible union
Of spheres of existence is actual,
Here the past and future
Are conquered, and reconciled,
Where action were otherwise movement
Of that which is only moved
And has in it no source of movement—
Driven by daemonic, chthonic

His sentiments are very close to VN's appreciation of transcendence through moments of awareness of the particulars of the material realm. This is clearly a thematic word and I think that is a good way to determine if a misprint is purposeful.


3 years 4 months ago

To comment in this post might seem like a two-pronged attack especially since I'm unconvinced by the views presented. "Chthonic" is a derived Greek word and any good book on ancient Greek beliefs will surely contain more than 14 occurrences of the word. Harder it will be search for books before 1959 since books might be not digitized like today. Like Kinbote who encountered stillicide in Hardy, I had first encountered "chthonic" in Lovecraft. In sheer popularization (and subsequent derivation and sales) and not literary merit, Lovecraft will probably count more.

Too much of confirmation bias (though "myside bias" is the new word on the block), I'm afraid, Mary.


Or should I say Mashenka?


3 years 4 months ago

Shakeeb, I don’t really know how to respond to your comment, and I have debated whether I should. It feels like a personal attack – dismaying for a site designed to foster collegiate discussion. You seem to be saying that because you do not agree with my Jungian theories that I should not offer any further insights that support them. That effectively shuts off any possible discussion.


My comment to Alain was a small, admittedly hyperbolic but defensible and conscious confirmation bias; a small piece of the puzzle – like part of a blue sky – not necessary to perceive the overall picture. It can be put aside to assume its rightful place as the design develops. I demonstrated that Jung used the term profusely and I chose to emphasize that with purposeful hyperbole. It is moot and beside the point to argue who has the highest word count; the point being made was that Jung, being deeply involved with mythology, alchemy, and the fecundity and power of dark unconscious realm, used this unusual word a lot.  I would conjecture (since neither you or I would want to take this point all the way to the library) that “chthonic” was seldom used previous to J.G. Frazer’s, Jung’s and Campbell’s serious studies of mythology as universal archetypes. I do have a copy of the 19th century’s Bulfinch’s Mythology, and I am quite sure he does not employ the word. The ancient myths were considered obsolete but entertaining fantasies  (except by intuitive poets).


I should add, although it’s beside the point, that Lovecraft was also influenced by Jung. The real point is that Jung had a great influence on Eliot. I suspect that one of the reasons VN hated Eliot is that he seems to have plugged in basic Jungian ideas in an overstated pedantic manner that Nabokov’s poetry was able to convey experientially with a few inspired but carefully considered words (e.g. the lines quoted above from Dry Salvages: reconciliation of opposites, the unmoved mover at the center, etc.– dry indeed). In other words, a re-hash of yesterday’s fish. Pale Fire features these themes as well, but with originality, intention and art. Nabokov said that he liked to take the work of others that he hated by imagining a better way of doing it. Plagiarism, stealing, literary appropriation is one way that Nabokov actually remains fresh and un-pedantic.


I didn’t intend to go this far into this issue, but I hope I’ve effectively supported my contention that there is a likely Jungian connection to Nabokov’s use of ‘chthonic.’ Whether he intended the misspelling or not is not really resolved, but I think pointing out the connection to Pale Fire’s major themes suggests so.


Best, Mary

Alain Champlain

3 years 4 months ago

Glad to hear that "on flagstones" was corrected (in which, it makes sense that it wasn't on Boyd's list) — small joy :)

Thanks for checking your copy


3 years 3 months ago

Alain, I am of a mind that it may actually have been a deliberate misprint. I think it may key in "flagstones" as possibly a clue towards understanding the misprints themselves. I suspect that the misprints, once located, together point to something crucial, either thematically, or even possibly a better solution to Hazel's barn message. I've always felt the "papa do not go..." is far too easy and too clunky. It can be solved on a first reading. I expect more elegance and precision from VN.

It also occurred to me, re: flagstones, that "trail" and "flagstones" may be a parallelism with the redcapped (i.e. "flagged") steinmen. Both would indicate VN's suggestion to follow the trails he has marked. This certainly would be true of James Ramey's discoveries of the trails through the index. 

Here's another indication, I think, of VN sending out clues to readers:

Pale Fire was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1963. From his acceptance speech:

one always remembers the arrival of one's published book, the precious, the pure volume which one tenderly opens — to find a fatal misprint of the plausible kind that will keep up with the book's destiny through hard and soft, from one edition to another, like a tenacious ancestral wart.

VN says something (SM?) about how he "hates to have to point things out" when the readership fails to catch something. Here he is pointing out, without giving away, the importance of misprints in his book. 

Alain Champlain

3 years 3 months ago

Again, I'm hip to misprints, but it's important to be able to sort out the intentional from the accidental.

There's very little I'm 100% certain about (I like to keep an open mind), so let's say I'm 90% certain that "or flagstones" is an accidental misprint that needed to be corrected.

My question for you: can you give me a few examples of misprints you're 90% certain are accidental? (Meaning, if you were the editor of a new edition, you would correct them.)



3 years 3 months ago

Alain, If you don't mind me reversing your question, the misprints I am aware of I feel 90% certain (well, at least more than 50%) are intentional as "flagged markers" of important themes or clues. As I wrote earlier, I think the criterion should be if they point to themes, or solutions to the barn spirit message, or Kobaltana, or a chess solution, or lead to a whole new interpretation.

Here is a list from Brian Boyd from http://thenabokovian.org/node/29942

21.12: salad,] salad <noted by Tony Fazio>
*46, poem 370: chtonic] chthonic
58.poem 667: caterpillar] caterpillar,
*105.26: loosing] losing
187.03: confusely] confusedly
*194.06: Litt] Lit
204.07: 440] 445
231.2: 664] 662
237.23: boys] boys,
244.17: 747] 741
275.08: $11,000,000] "$11,000,000
301.06: principles] principals
308.13: S] S <italics>
308.15: S] S <italics>
314.07: K <italics>] K.
315.09: S] S <italics>

I don't know about the grammatical ones - I think the italics are probably covered in James Ramey's Black Crown.

I think "loosing" could be right (that is, not a misprint) because it makes as much sense as "losing", perhaps more, since catch/loose is more oppositional.

I'm not sure about: $11,000,000] "$11,000,000. The full sentence is:

"$11,000,000, Decker Glass Manufacturing Company, Inc., note due July 1, 1979," and Gradus, grown young again, reread this this twice, with the background gray thought, perhaps, that he would be sixty-four four days after that (no comment).

The "(no comment)" makes me think it is worth commenting on. Perhaps so the reader pays attention to the fact that Gradus shares a birthday with Kinbote and Shade. Also, the "glass" theme is important. I seem to recall that the items in this paper were actually from a real paper? If so, VN must have been bowled over.


I would include as intentional:

>psychanalyst/psychoanalyst (Jung, insanity/dissociated personality theme)

>chtonic/chthonic (Jung, alchemy, demonic shadows and ghosts etc., T.S. Eliot's pedanticism/ literary appropriation theme)

>tryptich/triptich (Triple personality dissociation theme)

>bathouse/bathhouse (K's "cave", chthonic tunnel, bats writing in code)

>larvorium/larvarium (Transmutation & transcendence theme)

>Litt/Lit (Literary history and literary criticism themes)

>principles/principals ( 3 main characters as triple personality)   

>where, I suppose, they are still lying as snug as my gemmed scepter, ruby necklace, and diamond-studded crown in - no matter, where.(Kobaltana)

>Everywhere there is a wrong line attribution in the Index. (Not quite sure what those lead up to)


These are all the ones I am aware of. If you know of others, let me know. Do you have an original Putnam's? That would be so helpful. And, I hope this helps you.



Also, just want to add this, from VN's letter to Putnam's editor:

“I trust you will plunge into the book as into a blue ice hole, gasp, re-plunge, and then (around p. 126) emerge and sleigh home, metaphorically, feeling the tingling and delightful warmth reach you on the way from my strategically placed bonfires.” VNAY p424 (VNA  [VN Archives] December 6, 1961)

"strategically placed": In other words intentional overall design, not random misprints for the sake of catching misprints.


Alain Champlain

3 years 3 months ago

I do mind, very much.

I urge you to think about (and hopefully answer) the original question: I think it touches on a major source of conflict here (see Type I and Type II errors).


PS yes, I've got the Putnam's, among others.


3 years 3 months ago

Alain,   Since I basically see all the misprints as candidates for VN's intentional design, I thought it best to give you my thoughts on that. Perhaps if you had let me know the real purpose of your question (apparently to shoot me down), I would have been wise enough to not answer at all, instead of putting in some time and effort to give you a considered response. 

That being said, perhaps you did not notice that I did, within my response, address your very specific demand:

I think "loosing" could be right (that is, not a misprint) because it makes as much sense as "losing", perhaps more, since catch/loose is more oppositional.

I'm not sure about: $11,000,000] "$11,000,000. The full sentence is:

"$11,000,000, Decker Glass Manufacturing Company, Inc., note due July 1, 1979," and Gradus, grown young again, reread this this twice, with the background gray thought, perhaps, that he would be sixty-four four days after that (no comment).

The "(no comment)" makes me think it is worth commenting on. Perhaps so the reader pays attention to the fact that Gradus shares a birthday with Kinbote and Shade. Also, the "glass" theme is important. I seem to recall that the items in this paper were actually from a real paper? If so, VN must have been bowled over.

Alain Champlain

3 years 3 months ago

I've been trying to write clearly and concisely, so as to avoid any possible misunderstandings. I'm not sure how my last few replies were so misunderstood.

All I can say in response is that the "real purpose" of my question was not to "shoot [you] down," rather it was (and still is) an opportunity to start refuting any of the several accusations of "confirmation bias" and the likes.

I'm going to stop engaging, here and in other threads. No hard feelings. I wish you well.


3 years 3 months ago

Hi Mary,

Confirmation bias was not meant to used in such negative way, though I probably should have been more careful. I would try to offer a resolution. I think Jung was on to something. Freud was there too, in his own way. There's no denying the influence of their thought in psychology and understanding the psyche. Even if VN disliked both (the former is less mentioned), some aspects of their thought will be reflected or at least have a similar base. What you have been saying about narratives, "hero's journey", "confronting the Shadow for integration", is not incorrect, because so many narratives do employ those. I also think a voracious reader like VN would have been familiar with the tropes you mention, even if he did not quite put it the Northrop Frye way. In my experience with VN, however, he continuously subverts (perhaps the better word is deny) what you would expect from those narratives. Like meeting the Shadow or finally accepting it, does not make the person "whole" again. What you are attempting (if I understand correctly) is that the real plot does conform or resolve that. It is there that I emphasize my doubt.

I think we are all prodding and probing, so difference of opinion or rough edged ideas do not tantamount to the slander of the individual presenting them. I also understand that there's a fine line between pressure that fosters the growth of ideas (fine-tuning) and the kind of resistance which effectively strangles them at birth. Sometimes it is hard to toe the line.


3 years 3 months ago

Alain and Shakeeb, thank you for your kind and authentic responses. I was ready to stop engaging on this site anymore, too. I have been hoping for some real dialog and discussion, but ever since I began sharing my ideas (with the exception of one person's couple of nice comments and some appreciation from two people off-line) all I have received has been skepticism and denial, unsubstantiated with no apparent attempt to want to engage or to learn more. I've accepted the skepticism, I expected there would be push-back about Jung, but for some reason, in the last week, it seemed to have moved towards condescension and personal attack. Perhaps I have become overly sensitive. 


>Alain: That's not entirely true in your case; you have always been skeptical but seem to want to engage. That is why I was so taken aback at what seemed such a vehement rebuke ("I do mind, very much").  I guess I still don't understand what response you expected from me, especially if your intent was apparently to support me.  Tone is so hard to convey in writing, so I am sorry that I misconstrued your intent. I hope your decision will not be permanent.


>Shakeeb: Thank you.  Now we are getting somewhere. You have asked the Big Question – the one that I have struggled to understand – if the Jungian paradigm is so perfectly reflected in PF what does it mean that Kinbote suicides in the end?  The answer I have finally come to is so perfectly Nabokovian that it confirms my belief that VN consciously employed the Jungian paradigm. It is too involved to relate here, but briefly, the question remains a typical Nabokovian ambiguity, but at a higher level than the ironic plot level.  You can read my several papers on academia.edu to get an idea, although my thoughts have advanced a bit.


I had resolved that I was not going to post anymore, but I feel very encouraged now by your responses. I am however going to take a hiatus, although I would like to at some point address Shakeeb's comment in a new post. 

My very best, Mary


3 years 3 months ago

I do keep track of what the society members are saying, but my lack of engagement and initiation do not stem from derision or denial but from an inability to formulate an appropriate reply within a given time. My top concern in the site (like your absorption in Jung) is to fill the missing data, supply the necessary information for the many pages and links available in the website. So far it has been a solo course, but as the Board members keep saying, please do join in and add/edit the material available. It also goes without saying that more we put into it, the more everyone will get out of it as the more robust the scholarship behind VN's work becomes.

For the last 3 months (and I think for the remainder of the year) I've not been web browsing as I was before due some offline problems. That - I hope explains my inactivity.




3 years 3 months ago

Shakeeb, I hope you are well. If you are ailing, take care and I wish you a quick recovery.


I am relieved that all is well here on the site, at least. It seems I can't stay away, because I just found another misprint! (at least on my Everyman's edition):

Line 980, "Shall wake at six tomorrow,..."  is printed as "960"!  It is certainly an important thematic point. I think a good way of judging a misprint would be to check it against the original Putnam's to see if it is there, too.