'A jack-in-the-box, a Fabergé gem, a clockwork toy, a chess problem, an infernal machine, a trap to catch reviewers, a cat-and-mouse game, a do-it-yourself novel . . . one of the great works of art of [the 20th] century' Mary McCarthy
'Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically' John Updike
'The surest demonstration of his own genius' Harold Bloom
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.
An ingeniously constructed parody of detective fiction and learned commentary, Pale Fire offers a cornucopia of deceptive pleasures, at the centre of which is a 999-line poem written by the literary genius John Shade just before his death. Surrounding the poem is a foreword and commentary by the demented scholar Charles Kinbote, who interweaves adoring literary analysis with the fantastical tale of an assassin from the land of Zembla in pursuit of a deposed king. Brilliantly constructed and wildly inventive, this darkly witty novel of suspense, literary one-upmanship, and political intrigue achieves that rarest of things in literature - perfect tragicomic balance.
A W&N Essential
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