Pale Fire

Initial reception

The editor of a book of Nabokov criticism states that Pale Fire excited as diverse criticism as any of Nabokov's novels.[16] Mary McCarthy's review[17] was extremely laudatory; the Vintage edition excerpts it on the front cover.[18] She tried to explicate hidden references and connections. Dwight Macdonald responded by saying the book was "unreadable" and both it and McCarthy's review were as pedantic as Kinbote.[19] Anthony Burgess, like McCarthy, extolled the book,[20] while Alfred Chester condemned it as "a total wreck".[21]

Some other early reviews were less decided, praising the book's satire and comedy but noting its difficulty and finding its subject slight[22][23] or saying that its artistry offers "only a kibitzer's pleasure".[24] MacDonald called the reviews he had seen, other than McCarthy's, "cautiously unfavorable".[19] TIME magazine's 1962 review stated that "Pale Fire does not really cohere as a satire; good as it is, the novel in the end seems to be mostly an exercise in agility – or perhaps in bewilderment",[25] though this did not prevent TIME from including the book in its 2005 list of the 100 best English-Language novels published since 1923.[26]

In the 1980s, after Nabokov's reputation was rehabilitated in the Soviet Union, the novel was translated into Russian by his wife Véra, its dedicatee.[27]

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