Pale Fire (First Edition) by Vladimir Nabokov



2015-06-26 10:43:18

Pale Fire is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977). The first edition of this work was published in 1962 by Putnam’s Sons, New York. Background

Pale Fire was one of Nabokov’s books written in English. It’s experimentation with the novel form ranks it among significant works of metafiction.

Plot, Characters, Themes

The novel is written in the form of a poem of 999 lines, by a fictional character John Shade. It includes a foreword and commentary by his academic colleague and neighbour Kinbote, and through this medium presents a story that involves both men. This forms a non-linear narrative with more than one dimension or way of reading.

The poem describes aspects of Shade’s own life, and the editorial comments from Kinbote involve three stories – his own and his friendship with Shade, who was murdered, the story of King Charles II the deposed king of Zembla, which Kinbote insists was the poem’s inspiration and the reader comes to realise is Kinbote’s delusion of his own fabricated history, and lastly, the story of an assassin who is hunting King Charles down to kill him, who murdered Shade by mistake.


Vladimir Nabokov was a Russian writer who delighted in experimenting with language, both Russian and English.

See main article: Vladimir Nabokov rare books and memorabilia

Notable auction sales and collecting tips

First editions (1962, Putnam’s Sons, New York) are worth much more in their original dust-jackets. The first edition went through multiple printings, so it is worth checking whether a copy is a first or later issue as this can affect the price. Copies are worth infinitely more if signed by Nabokov, particularly with the butterfly illustrations that he often adds to inscriptions.

First editions were sold by Christie’s, inscribed with signature and butterfly illustration for $13,750 in December 2009, Nabokov’s annotated working copy for $26,290 in October 2002, and dedication copy inscribed to Nabokov’s wife with signature and butterfly for $77,675 in October 2002.

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