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‘A jack-in-the-box, a Fabergé gem, a clockwork toy, a chess problem, an infernal machine, a trap to catch reviewers, a cat-and-mouse game, a do-it-yourself novel . . . one of the great works of art of [the 20th] century’
Mary McCarthy

‘Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically’
John Updike

‘Phenomenally clever and very funny’
William Boyd

‘The surest demonstration of his own genius . . . that remarkable tour de force’
Harold Bloom

‘Monstrous, witty, intricately entertaining . . . dazzling’
Time

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;
I was the smudge of ashen fluff – and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.

An ingeniously constructed parody of detective fiction and learned commentary, Pale Fire offers a cornucopia of deceptive pleasures, at the centre of which is a 999-line poem written by the literary genius John Shade just before his death. Surrounding the poem is a foreword and commentary by the demented scholar Charles Kinbote, who interweaves adoring literary analysis with the fantastical tale of an assassin from the land of Zembla in pursuit of a deposed king. Brilliantly constructed and wildly inventive, this darkly witty novel of suspense, literary one-upmanship, and political intrigue achieves that rarest of things in literature – perfect tragicomic balance.

A W&N Essential