game he suspects is being played, invisibly, all around him, and thereby "grope" his
way to some . . . . Faint hope" (63 1. 834).
The conspiratorial eeriness of this "they" is more than the casual paranoia of
an eccentric fictional character: Nabokov writes in an unpublished postscript to
Speak, Memory that the autobiography is structured "according to the way his life had
been planned by unknown players of games" (qtd. in Discovery
a statement Boyd
draws on in arguing that Nabokov moves the characters of Pale Fire around like
chess pieces "precisely because he in turn suspects that something beyond him shapes
his world and ours"
Seen in this light, Nabokov's aesthetics seem nearly
identical to Freud's psychology: "The patient does not remember anything of what
he has forgotten and repressed, but acts it out," Freud says. "He reproduces it not as a
memory but as an action; he repeats it, without, of course, knowing that he is
repeating it" ("Remembering" 150). To Freud, we unconsciously act out an infantile
beforetime in the playground of the transference; to Nabokov, we unknowingly
perform the dictates of an otherworldly aftertime on the gameboard of our world.
The difference is one of direction, while their essential uncanniness is the same.
The remaining distinctions between Freudian and Nabokovian forms of
transference start becoming blurred if we consider them in their greater structural
There are a number of moments when Nabokov makes his presence felt through the layers of the text of Pale Fire. We have previously noted Kinbote's musing at the end of his Commentary that he "may turn up yet, on another campus, as an old, happy, healthy, heterosexual Russian, a writer in exile, sans fame, sans future, sans audience, sans anything but his art" (301). Other oddities include Shade's apparently innocent recollection of the year in which "Hurricane Lolita swept from Florida to Maine" (58, 11.679-680) and Shade's describing in a beautiful non sequitur "the exile, the old man Dying in a motel, with the loud fan Revolving in the torrid prairie night. . . . He suffocates and conjures in two
tongues The nebulae dilating in his lungs"
609-611 and 615-16). In addition to eerily
foretelling Kinbote's despair and suicide in Cedarn, Utana, the passage seems to describe Nabokov's own motel-to-motel butterfly hunting expeditions in the western United States.