Ambushed, waylaid, ravished by an unexpected encounter tonight with Pale Fire, Nabokov’s powerful daemonic masterpiece. An oddity of a novel told in four cantos, 999 lines of seductive, sensuous verse. A virtuoso piece, a showcase for the author’s extraordinary talent and intellectual fire power; a linguistic fireworks display built upon the slightest pretext for a novel. Literary satire, insider wit. Published in 1962, it is on most lists of the 100 most important works of literature of the 20th Century. Vladimir Nabokov, Russian emigre, sheer genius. Poetic mountebank, myth-maker, verbal alchemist, spellbinding caster of spells, synesthete, lepidopterist, chess expert.
Takes your breath away.
I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;
I was the smudge of ashen fluff–and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky . . .
. . .
Uncurtaining the night, I’d let dark glass
Hang all the furniture above the grass . . .
Retake the falling snow: each drifting flake
Shapeless and slow, unsteady and opaque,
A dull dark white against the day’s pale white
And abstract larches in the neutral light.
And then the gradual and dual blue
As night unites the viewer and the view . . . .
I’m just at a loss for words in such company. Hardly fair one person should be so richly gifted. Are we sure he was actually human and not a smirking Parnassus sojourner in disguise having a little prankster fun with us?