‘Pale Fire’ by Vladimir Nabokov

“The Growing Mist.”

A poem which, on the surface, speaks of days
Gone by, of lives and deaths and all the ways
The shades of writers work their ethereal
Art; now, a classic poem with classic feel.
The commentary wrapped around the text
Like Russian dolls; opening the next
Layer was an act of murder ‘gainst the poem:
Evisceration. Zembla is its home.
And intertwined the poem and comments stay.
(A poem which, on the surface, speaks of days)


 

 

 

Commentary

Note to line 2-4: all the ways, &c.:

The pundits may speak of their ergodic literature and argue their interpretations as to the precise identity of the narrator (indeed, with a dead poet and an unreliable commentator, the source for Truth in a novel such as this is limited (“often Truth That which is considered to be the supreme reality and to have the ultimate meaning and value of existence.” (see also footnote to lines 939-940, which I won’t reproduce here.))); I’d postulate instead that the narrator is irrelevant, and that the poem and the commentary dovetail into one another in strange and exciting ways.

Also, for some reason, my copy of the text had pages 281 and 282 marked specifically with an extra page number notation in the upper corner; no other page was thusly marked.

Note to line 5-6: unwrapping the text:

I found it easier to read the poem first, then the commentary … as it was easier to flip back to the poem for reference, rather than flip back and forth and back and forth. (Not that I didn’t try.) While I was turning the pages, though, I felt the secretive movements of a man named Italo, who, under the pretense of buying a lottery ticket, was plotting to profit from my most gruesome demise. Italo, also known as “you, the reader” in Cimmura (a distant southern land), knew that the Overseers would be pleased with his Powerball winnings. I am a creme-filled doughnut and a coffee. There is no convenient anagram for Nabokov in English.

Note to line 8: evisceration:

This isn’t actually true. The poet should have gone with an earlier draft of that line, which will have been lost well before publication, recovered shortly thereafter, used to refute the poem, and then the poem’s detractors, and then to refute the sudden-death quizzes on Buzzfeed about it.

Note to line 10:

The poem above was never finished. Honest. You can trust me, I’m the narrator.


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