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Monday, March 26, 2018

Pale Fire online reading group, Week 11

Mont Blanc (public domain photo).

This week, a bit shorter read: Commentary for Line 741 to Commentary for Line 949, pages 170-183 in my old paperback.

Line 768: I'm assuming this is one of the letters to his queen that gave away Kinbote's location in the U.S.

Line 782: Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote a famous poem about Mont Blanc, but it doesn't have the lines that Kinbote remembers; is there another poem that Kinbote could have in mind?

Line 803: Does this anecdote about a Russian translation offer an anecdote about who Kinbote really is?

Franklin Knight Lane (public domain photo). 

Line 810: Letters of Franklin Lane. A real book! And if you want to act on Kinbote's recommendation, you can get an ebook from Project Gutenberg. 

Franklin Knight Lane (1864-1921) was a prominent Democratic politician. He wrote the lines quoted in Pale Fire when he knew he was going to die soon.  

Commentary to Line 894: The origin of Kinbote's alias, and an admission that the author of Pale Fire is the V. Botkin mentioned in the index?

"He was a so-called Pink": This sounds like Nabokov's own sarcastic opinions. He didn't think much, for example, of Dr. Zhivago.

Line 929: Nabokov thought Freudianism was ridiculous.

Next week: The end is in sight! Please finish the commentary and look at the index.


Oz Fritz said...

Nabakov writes, perhaps with a touch of irony (p. 255): "Should he do something about it? Cable headquarters? Hard to word succinctly a simple fact without having it look like a cryptogram." Coincidentally, or not, "Cable headquarters" appears a cryptogram that reveals a simple fact when relating it to a quest of transformation. The cryptogram deciphers by finding the gematria for "cable" then looking up the same chapter number in Crowley's 'Book of Lies;" "headquarters" should appear obvious for qabalistic interpretation.

Line 803 a misprint: " A newspaper account of a Russian tsar's coronation had, instead of korona (crown) the misprint voronoa (crow), ... it got misprinted a second time as korova (cow)"

Crown reminds me of Horus, "the crowned and conquering child," Crow obviously suggests Crowley given all the other allusions to Crowley in the book. Cow I see as crow, or Crowley without the "r" i.e. no solar influence, no heart; cow - a passive docile creature with no will, the exact opposite of Horus.

Line 810 a web of sense. Earlier, in the commentary to Lines 734 - 735 the instruction says to see lines 808 - 829 regarding the 'key to life and death." The first paragraph for the commentary to Line 810 alludes to theurgic sex magick.

Eric Wagner said...

Kether also means crown.

Oz Fritz said...

Eric, yes, it seems a reference to Kether.

With the excessive, nearly hysterical, media coverage about an actor named Stormy, I'm amused to read line 830: "Stormcoated, I strode in: Sybil it is ...
The name Sybil means prophetess. the rest of the stanza could fit Trump's drama with a little imagination. It's the last stanza in Canto 3.

Oz Fritz said...

Lines 835 - 838 - Kinbote informs us that Shade began the 4th Canto "on card 68" Just before this reading group began I posted a blog on the significance of the number 68 in works by RAW, Crowley and, in this essay, mostly by Deleuze. Not having read any Nabakov before, I had absolutely no idea that this 68 meme would turn up in "Pale Fire."

The primary interpretation given to 68 connects it with the two Sephira: 6 = Tiphareth = Beauty; 8 = Hod = Mercury = communication. 68 = Beauty communicated or the communication of Beauty. The lines of the poem read:

835 - Now I shall spy on beauty as none has
836 - Spied on it yet. Now I shall cry out as
837 - None has cried out. Now I shall try what none
838 - Has tried. Now I shall do what none has done.

Communication of beauty. The way I went about in the blog attempting to prove Deleuze promotes this 68 conspiracy seems not unlike (as Kinbote writes)"the cunning working-in of several inter-echoing phrases into a jumble of enjambments." (p.263)

These lines, 835 - 838, remind me of a stanza from Dylan's song "It's Alright, Ma, I'm Only Bleeding:

"Advertising signs that con you into thinking
That you're the one that can do what's never been done
That can win what's never been won
Meantime life goes on all around you"

Superficially these lyrics can sound cynical, but I see them differently. Dylan released this song within a year or two of "Pale Fire" being released. He is well-read and was known to borrow/steal/reappropriate literary and other sources so it seems possible that Pale Fire directly inspired him.

Eric Wagner said...

Comment to line 741: The reference to Eskimos makes me think of Whorf. I wonder what polylingual Nabokov would think of the Korzybski-Whorf-Sapir hypothesis.

Line 782: I think this refers to a poem by John Shade which the woman liked.

Note to line 802: I wonder why Kinbote insists that the reader "see Forward, see Forward, at once."

Commentary to line 810: I wonder if Nabokov had Joyce in mind with the phrase "Daedalian plan".

Line 894: The reference to Marat reminds me I haven't seen "Marat/Sade" for decades.

Commentary to 894: Shades and shadows show up throughout this novel. One can see the commentary as a shadow of the poem. One can see our comments on this blog as a shadow of a shadow. A few pages back Aristotle showed up, or at least his shade did. These shades and shadows make me think of Plato, though. See also note to lines 939-940.