railway station, who thought he was God and began redirecting the trains"
"glazed eyes" (238) Shade directs at Kinbote suggest that either the two were
discussing him as well, or that he is the "person" Shade really had in mind. Either
way, the implication is that Shade regards Kinbote as "a fellow poet"
of shared imagination and humanity we do not encounter directly in almost any of
What is at stake here is the shared territory of art and madness, and it is one of
many moments in Pale Fire in which we can sense Nabokov's presence behind that
of his characters. Brian Boyd notes that Nabokov often flags important passages in
the novel with ironic dismissal, and here Kinbote concludes by shrugging that "I am
not sure this trivial variant has been worth commenting; indeed, the whole passage
about the activities of the
would be quite Hudibrastic had its pedestrian verse
been one foot shorter" (238). To the Zemblan theologians, the agnostic John Shade,
and Nabokov himself, then, delusions are not merely "attempts at explanation and
cure," as Freud says, but are "brilliant
that shed the
past" where the Viennese witch-doctor imprisons them. That is, while Freud seeks to
firmly lodge the truth at the core of madness within an infantile beforetime, Nabokov
envisions its redemption in an otherworldly aftertime.
It is significant in this respect that while Brian Boyd is able to fill a book with
elaborate demonstrations of how Hazel influences Shade from beyond the grave, how
One exception is found in Kinbote's gloss on "Freud" in his note to line 929. Kinbote describes here his and Shade's violently scornful laughter at Kinbote's reciting "certain tidbits from a book I had filched from a classroom"-Prof. C's classroom, in fact-"a learned work on psychoanalysis, used in American colleges, repeat, used in American colleges" (271). Two passages from actual books, the
first from Oskar Pfister's
Method and the second from Erich Fromm's The Forgotten
are reprinted in the note, with bibliographic information and page numbers included (271).