The American poet John Shade is dead; murdered. His last poem, Pale Fire, is put into a book, together with a preface, a lengthy commentary and notes by Shade’s editor, Charles Kinbote. Known on campus as the ‘Great Beaver’, Kinbote is haughty, inquisitive, intolerant, but is he also mad, bad – and even dangerous? As his wildly eccentric annotations slide into the personal and the fantastical, Kinbote reveals perhaps more than he should.
Nabokov’s darkly witty, richly inventive masterwork is a suspenseful whodunit, a story of one-upmanship and dubious penmanship, and a glorious literary conundrum.
This centaur work, half-poem, half-prose . . . is a creation of perfect beauty, symmetry, strangeness, originality and moral truth. Pretending to be a curio, it cannot disguise the fact that it is one of the great works of art of this century -- Mary McCarthy
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