A Votive Light for Nabokov



Ambushed, waylaid, ravished by an unexpected encounter tonight with Pale Fire, Nabokov’s powerful daemonic masterpiece. An oddity of a novel told in four cantos, 999 lines of seductive, sensuous verse.  A virtuoso piece, a showcase for the author’s extraordinary talent and intellectual fire power; a linguistic fireworks display built upon the slightest pretext for a novel. Literary satire, insider wit.  Published in 1962, it is on most lists of the 100 most important works of literature of the 20th Century.  Vladimir Nabokov, Russian emigre, sheer genius. Poetic mountebank, myth-maker, verbal  alchemist, spellbinding caster of spells, synesthete, lepidopterist, chess expert.

Takes your breath away. Monarch_butterfly 2


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 . . .

. . .

Uncurtaining the night, I’d let dark glass

Hang all the furniture above the grass . . .

Retake the falling snow: each drifting flake

Shapeless and slow, unsteady and opaque,

A dull dark white against the day’s pale white

And abstract larches in the neutral light.

And then the gradual and dual blue

As night unites the viewer and the view . . . .

I’m just at a loss for words in such company.  Hardly fair one person should be so richly gifted. Are we sure he was actually human and not a smirking Parnassus sojourner in disguise having a little prankster fun with us?

About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger. Follow me on Twitter @LangstaffEditor
This entry was posted in fiction, Literary Classics, Literary Lions, Literature, poetry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Votive Light for Nabokov

  1. Jeff Japp says:

    I hate to admit it, but I have never read any Nabakov. I have Ada on my shelf, but have not gotten to it. How will I ever find the time to read everything I want to?

    Liked by 1 person

    • You wont, I won’t. But I’ve learned that having a powerful book around, even if unread, exposes me to the temptation and possibility of actually reading it one day. Watch out, Jeff: Ada may seduce you one day! There is so much a writer can enjoy and learn from Nabokov.

      Liked by 1 person

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