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Azure Afterimages: Reflections on Nabokov's Pale Fire

From: Nabokov Studies
Volume 6, 2000/2001
pp. 163-199 | 10.1353/nab.2011.0055



Many responses to Nabokov's Pale Fire: The Magic of Artistic Discovery drew attention to suggestive particulars in Pale Fire whose purpose I here try to ascertain. There are details and designs still to be traced at every phase of reading Pale Fire: a first reading (the A-Z pattern, which may also indicate the key role of Hazel that I proposed in NPF); rereading (a "Botkin" implied in the "catkin" evoked but eschewed late in the poem; implications hidden in place-names like Kobaltana or in personal names like Sylvia O'Donnell); and re-rereading (the echo of "The Vane Sisters" in the Vanessa at the end of Shade's poem and his life; the scene starring Gordon, the boy from whom Gradus recoils but whom the king has clearly possessed, as an ironic variation on the pattern of women spurned; the echo of Pope's "distant northern land" in the last three words of the Index).