Pale Fire, that fantastic novel written by Nabokov, should perhaps be the first novel that students of literature must read. Though there are many reasons, the most important one is that it will prevent us from over -analyzing or over -interpreting any work of art.
The fantastic paraphrase that Charles Kinbote, John Shade's friend and biographer indulges in, is nothing short of a diatribe, a rhetorical allegory of the poet's life. The constant self references, the almost paranoid explanations of the I, I and the me , me is a reflection of the attitude that we so often take when we read novels or poems or watch movies.
How could Kinbote actually know what Shade was thinking of, when he wrote that particular line or this one. The steely almost comical way he suggests so is Nabokov at his scathing best.
We have been forced to accept not only the greatness of certain writers but we have been told who not to read.This suffocating cultural imperialism , nothing short of a malaise of the intellect is an overwhelming force in literary circles and outside of those.
How can we assume to ever get under the skin of any writer when we don't even know who we are........from time to time, we change from childish monsters to poetic freaks, from sad eyes to happy thoughts.......from hapless chimeras to absurd dreams.
And yet, we claim to have understood this writer because we have read him extensively, because that translation was great, because I liked his words, because he is considered a great writer and so on. Novels written ages ago or now cannot reflect but a mood, a phase, a concern or at best, an attitude. Most novels that are considered great have become greater now, after having been made so by the Kinbote's of this world.
I am not trying to even think of questioning any work here, for I leave that to serious students of drama and art, one of whom considers this blog as an exercise in dilletantism. But I do find that one cannot actually comment on the worth of any novel or poems because to do so would be a brave man's job.
In this respect, Pessoa deserves credit as he wrote from four different perspectives and yet, it was he who wrote. Any misdemeanour on the others part is his mistake.
It is also important to remind oneself that most great writers took puny selfish positions when it came to taking political stands, people like Sartre and so on, who revelled in arm chair humanism and promoted confusion about their views.
Isn't it just plain delusional thinking to actually thus interpret and understand any book? I mean we can try to, we can live that music, hum that tune, but understand.....no.
It is in this context that I was reminded of Pale Fire, and perhaps I should end by saying that I admire it without understanding any other motive on the writer's part, apart from the most obvious one which I just mentioned.
Having indulged in such rhetoric myself, we sufferer's from words must go on and read more. I will end by quoting from Correction, this monster masterpiece by Bernhard, reflecting my Bernhard phase, which too will pass.
At certain points in our existence we break off the nature of our existence and proceed to exist only on books, in written stuff, until we again have the opportunity to exist in nature, very often as another person, always as another person. we take refuge in reading, and live for a long time in our books, a more undisturbed life. i have lived half my life not in nature but in my books as a nature-substitute...................to everything we think and fill our own life and that we hear and see, perceive, we always have to add: the truth, however is that uncertainty has become a chronic condition with us. When we think, we know nothing, everything is open, nothing, so Roithamer.The nature of the case is always something else, so Roithamer.