NABOKV-L post 0022167, Sat, 12 Nov 2011 21:35:51 -0200

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Re: Pale Fire: A Poem in Four Cantos by John Shade
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Matthew Roth: As I was reading, I was again reminded of a question I've never quite resolved. Because Kinbote describes the evening of Shade's death in ways that are consonant with the description in Shade's poem (almost sunset, red admiral flitting about, gardener working in the yard) we tend to forget that one detail in Shade's poem clashes with a detail in Kinbote's account-that being the whereabouts of Sybil Shade. In the poem, she is "In the garden" "near the shagbark tree" but in Kinbote's note she shows up after the fact, dropped off in a car driven by Dr. Sutton's daughter. What are we to make of this narrative hiccup, if anything? Can we simply chalk it up to Shade's 'poetic license,' or are we supposed to make some other sense out of this clash of details?

Jansy Mello: In several long past postings to the N-List I tried to call attention to this same clash, including the fact that Shade was writing in his room (close to a book-case and getting a view to Dr.Sutton's window) and not downstairs in his porch. I never thought that this incongruence was a consequence of a "narrative hiccup," nor of a shadean "poetic license" because, if we "seriously" consider Shade's poem (ie: as an independent work of art that can stand by itself), the clash derives from Kinbote's "unserious" retelling of its events and transformations.

Another interesting aspect is Shade's description of the butterfly, because in the sequence of the narrative this particular specimen couldn't have been closely examined whereas its description in the poem reveals details that are only visible in the eyes of an lepidopterist-artist's memory, or by a slow detailed examination.

Errata: In my former posting on Nabokov's "The Word" and Borges "The Aleph" and his poem "Matthew 25:30" I inadvertently added another poem ( "to gaze at a river made of time and water," isolated from its title, namely "The Art of Poetry"). The latter was a copy from Anthony Kerrigan's translation, published on page 199 of "Borges, A Personal Anthology,". 1967, Grove Press.

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