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René Alladaye, "The Darker Shades of Pale Fire"

Half a century after its publication, Pale Fire, one of Vladimir Nabokov’s most brilliant achievements, remains a literary mystery. Despite the richness of its critical history and the ingenuity of two generations of readers, the ongoing debate about its narrative structure and the identity of its narrator(s) still has not reached a definitive conclusion. This study chronicles the major stages of the novel’s reception, from Mary McCarthy’s groundbreaking review to Brian Boyd’s striking metaphysical interpretation, and offers a critical assessment of the various theories put forward to account for the text’s intricacies. This systematic analysis, which follows in the footsteps of Pierre Bayard and combines the methods of “detective criticism” with the use of the basic tools provided by narratology, leads to the refutation of a number of views and approaches to the novel, and induces a new exegesis resting on the central role played by a famous painting. The re-examination of the Pale Fire case generates a surprising solution to the novel’s puzzle

Table of Contents

Introduction: In Defence of the “Arrogant Commentator”

Chapter 1: A “Genetic Monster” or a “New Mutation”

Chapter 2: Pale Fire, a User’s Manual

Chapter 3: “A Bolt from the Blue”: The Mother of all Readings

Chapter 4: Coincidences – The Sole Author Approach

Chapter 5: Are You a Shadean, a Kinbotean or a Botkinian?

Chapter 6: How to Refute a Solid Line

Chapter 7: Nabokovian Metaphysics

Chapter 8: Pale Fire as Anamorphosis

Chapter 9: The Darker Shades of Pale Fire: Looking for the Novel’s Dead Centre

Conclusion: Solving Pale Fire?


René Alladaye, The Darker Shades of Pale Fire: An Investigation into a Literary Mystery, Paris, Michel Houdiard, 2013.




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