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Cohen 54

both in turn inspire

Kinbote,

and even how Kinbote's experiences in New Wye

inform his delusions, he cannot definitively reconstruct Kinbote's past as

Botkin.

The

most he (and anyone) can

determine

is that he "seems likely to be a Russian

CmigrC

who has lived until recently in Scandinavia"

(92),

and that he may have been forced

to flee the country and his university post after molesting a child (96). Nabokov

seems to have made it impossible for the reader to construct the "drab and unhappy

past" of Kinbote with any

kind

of conviction, though it remains a palpable presence

behind the commentary. Though he certainly does not shy from revealing the depths

of Kinbote's despair ("Dear Jesus, do something"

[93]),

Nabokov is more interested

in having us appreciate how Kinbote transmutes that pain into art by inventing the

dazzling otherworld of Zembla.

Shade's parodic treatment of the I.P.H. and Mrs. Z. makes it eminently clear,

though, that we ought not to literalize the otherworld, a vulgarization we can extend

to equating it solely with an afterlife, however eruditely aestheticized. And if we

should not abstract Pale Fire to a metaphysical treatise on life and afterlife-a

"spiritualistic case history" (226) in Kinbote's contemptuous words-neithershould

we reduce it to an aesthetic one on life and art. Home and exile, original and double,

self and other, "drab and unhappy past" and fantastic delusion are equally applicable

renderings of the divide between world and otherworld. If Brian Boyd's book on

Pale Fire makes the first of these literalizing mistakes by providing a supernatural

solution to the puzzles of the text, it does not necessarily make his argument "wrong."

As Boyd notes, many of Nabokov's stories and novels show an interest in "not just

the possibility of an afterlife but also the possibility of some communication between

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