Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023422, Mon, 22 Oct 2012 16:03:44 -0200

Scrambled messages and Kinbote as an arrant thief
In various places Kinbote ( "a lunatic King") compares himself to the sun whereas Pale Fire appears as "pale and diaphanous" "a transparent thingum" in need of a "moondrop title." However, Kinbote once places himself in the position of the moon: "in many cases have caught myself borrowing a kind of opalescent light from my poet's fiery orb"*

CK's "lunacy" and his confession about borrowing a pale light from Shade's fire allows me to include him in what are described as Aunt Maud's warnings. The inclusion of the apparently senseless word "arrant" in the various renderings of the scrambled message reinforces this conjecture.
The matter of questioning the reason why did Aunt Maud protect old Shade and forget young Hazel gains a lighter tonality if we accept that the warnings intended to protect the manuscript from Kinbote's thieving project (he robs it in two senses: at first he takes possession of the papers, next his commentaries attempt to take possession of Shade's work and inspiration).
There's the authorial irony about Kinbote's blindness about the origin of the poem's title since the word "arrant" doesn't ring a bell for him. In addition, as Brian Boyd writes (NPF,p.267): "As Kinbote's note to lines 39-40 shows, whithout his realizing it, a discarded variant to these lines ('and home would haste my thieves/ The sun with stolen ice, the moon with leaves') indicates that Shade has the Timon of Athens passage firmly in mind on the very first day of composing the poem. This suggests that he planned to call it "Pale Fire" from the start, and is only feigning, on his last day of composition, to snatch at a title."

There's also a bit of fun in the French rendering of the words he selects for, among them, there's "or" (French for gold). More than Hazel or Shade, Kinbote is in the right position to encounter a pointer to judge Goldsworth name (in both languages). ogo old wart / gelgal vortvirt.

Cf. Jansy Mello's "Castor and Pollux in Pale Fire", The Nabokovian 63,Fall 2009.

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