John Shade, a poet and English professor at a small New England college, composed an epic 999-line poem just before his death in July 1959. A colleague named Charles Kinbote, an exile from the east European nation of Zembla, befriended Shade in the final five months of his life, and filled his ear with the story of the Zemblan revolution the year before, the escape of the king to America, and the assassin who is in pursuit of said monarch, hoping Shade would put the saga into a poem. _Pale Fire_ consists of the poem, clearly a love poem to Shade's wife and memoriam to their dead daughter, and Kinbote's obsessive scholarly notes in which he retells his Zemblan saga, reading out of the poem parts of his story that probably aren't there. But the assassin is real, and on his way. Nabokov's book is a formal tour-de-force, and a satire on academic scholarship, but a remarkably easy read for all that.
This report prepared by David Loftus
An obsessed ex-King, Charles Kinbote, who has escaped to America and has fallen in love with the poetry of John Shade, and has "kidnapped" his last poem (the 1,000 line poem "Pale Fire", in heroic couplets, which he completed just before he was killed) and has taken it upon himself to write a commentary of it, including his own story in much of the commentary. This book is filled with puzzle after puzzle after puzzle, though very easy to enjoy for the non-literary minded reader. It's on the top 100 list of books (in English) from the twentieth century, and is truly a wonderwork of imagination and joy.
This report prepared by David J. Peterson