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MonkeyNotes-Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
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The Foreword gives the reader a taste of the bizarre writing style of the narrator, Charles Kinbote. As the exclusive editor of Shade's poem, "Pale Fire," he uses his commentary to tell about himself more than to analyze the poem. Since most of the book is Charles' editorial notes, all of his weird comments and mis- typings are included, as well as his endless asides about boys, ping-pong, and Zemblan life. Amidst the ramblings of Charles, the reader is able to obtain the general gist of what has happened: Shade, Charles' favorite poet and friend, has been recently killed. His last poem, "Pale Fire," is being edited by Charles. Charles reveals that many people object to his editorial comments. Sybil Shade, the poet's wife, is particularly angry about his handling of the poem. She believes that Charles has stolen the poem, which he essentially did, even though he claims a right to it. The entire poem is to be presented after the foreword to the book.


During the foreword, Charles give small hints that he may be Charles the Beloved, the deposed King of Zembla. He also alludes to the fact that he is a homosexual. More importantly, during the foreword, Charles makes it clear that he is an amusing character although he seems a bit crazy. It becomes obvious that he is to be a naive narrator who does not always present the whole truth (or possibly no truth). It is always necessary to read through his claims and complaints and to understand that he is usually not "on target". Although he is editing " Pale Fire," he has really "stolen" the poem in order to tell his own story. In fact, the "Foreword" is a genius piece of writing, a perfect take-off on academic forwards that use lofty language to describe what is actually the writer's very personal outlook and prejudices. The suggestion that the reader buy two copies of the book is quite funny--a clever plea to sell books and cover up the extremely messy and fragmented story that is to follow.

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