Lowe, Peter. Musing upon the King's Wreck: T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land in Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire. 2008

Author(s)
Bibliographic title
Musing upon the King's Wreck: T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land in Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire
Periodical or collection
Nabokov Online Journal
Periodical issue
v. 2
Publication year
Abstract

The essay attempts to show that Nabokov was often scornful in his comments on the "pretentious vulgarity [and] tedious nonsense" he found in T. S. Eliot's poetry. His novel Pale Fire, built as it is around a lengthy poem with Notes that promise to 'explain' the text and only make it more obscure, may be read as a pastiche of the format Eliot employed in The Waste Land. Whilst the textual echoes of Eliot's poem within Pale Fire have been identified and analysed, however, Lowe contends that Nabokov's borrowings from Eliot reveal an indebtedness that exceeds his conscious disavowals of any sense of influence, and connects both writers in their exploration of the pitfalls of self-delusion and the means by which fragmented understanding may be woven into a cohesive whole. Closer examination of the echoes of The Waste Land in Pale Fire, then, suggests that Eliot's verse informs the text on a much deeper level than simply that of a target for Nabokov's wit.