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The Zembla Condition - a Reading into the Reading into of Pale Fire

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Essay title: The Zembla Condition - a Reading into the Reading into of Pale Fire

The Zembla Condition:

A Reading into the Reading into of Pale Fire

Pale Fire is a story that takes place mostly in the form of commentary on a 999 line poem. The commentary tells the story of an exiled King and his fated encounter with a simple poet, John Shade, and the consequetial harbingering of death to Shade by way of a political assassin name Gradus. The poem, however, does not contain any of these themes. It becomes obvious within the explanation of my rather rough summery that this work of fiction dwells somewhere outside the realm of reality. While reading the commentary one feels as though they have wandered into the labrynthian mind of a true madman, who has fabricated an entire universe around his obsessions and fears. The narrarator, Kinbote, is undoubtedly suffering from some form of mental illness, which I suspect is the Zembla Condition.

The National Counsel of Psychology's literature department defines The Zembla Condition as: 1. A withdrawal from reality coinciding with the hijacking of associative thought resulting in a "fictional" state of mind. 2. The acceptance, either consciously or subconsciously, of the state of mind resulting in the coexistence of disparate or antagonistic concepts.

Plausible elements may abound in Pale Fire, and perhaps a skimmed reading of the book might result in some bleary memory of something that resembles a straight-foward, realistic fiction and the particular reader who formulated this opinion would no doubt admit the book was a little too fancy for him, but believable nonetheless, and although he was distracted as he was forced to read it hunched over due to a sick cat sleeping on his neck, he thinks he understood it, but he is pretty damn sure that he never saw "Zembla" in the daily crossword, so he's confident that part's made up. However, a closer examination unearths fantastical elements that are as grand as Zembla's tumultuous kingdom and as mundane as Kinbote's relationship to his neighbor Shade. While quandaries grow exponentially, one thing remains constant: the further one delves the more one begins to question the reality of any solid detail as the details become more incompatible. Kinbote is often portrayed as the man mumbling to himself behind a bush in your backyard, watching you through your window as you sit and watch TV. He is not a man to be trusted or believed. However, Kinbote is our only voice, our only key to unlocking the story and the reader must trust him to a certain degree or at least trust his commitment to his Zembla Condition.

When analyzing Pale fire one is put into the awkward position of becoming like Kinbote. His goal being to investigate the work of someone else, find the hidden meanings, unlock the the mysteries inside, infuse the work with an element of "human reality" which he claims the poem, Pale Fire, lacks due to the readers unfamiliarity to "the reality of its author (Shade) and his surroundings, attachments and so forth, a reality that only my (Kinbote's) notes can provide."(pg 28-29) Nabokov has created a scenario in which to analyze this book is to read a of parody yourself.

In the foreword

Kinbote mentions that he is near a loud amusement park and while discussing the intended "symmetry of structure" of Shade's poem's first and last lines (pg 15) he interjects his analysis with, "and damn that music." The world mocks him as he deconstructs elements of Shade's poem, his serious insights juxtaposed with the inane, psychotic soundtrack of a carnival. Not all that dissimilar to the distractions faced by a hung-over college student fighting off the subconscious sabotage of the methodical bumping and creaking and moaning coming from the room upstairs or the disturbing pop-ups that his roommate acquired

while searching for handcrafted Spanish garrotes.

There was an artist living in the mid-1900's named Henry Darger. He was a recluse that spoke to no one, and yet, he is credited with writing one of the longest works of fiction in existence. He is similar to Kinbote in that he used pre-existing work, in Darger's case mostly magazine and newspaper clippings, and created an entire universe, complete with its own sciences and mythologies. Nabokov's instincts were spot on when writing the deranged character Kinbote. The cause and effect between real events and Kinbote's fantasy are sometimes subtle, perhaps even unintentional, and sometimes they are an obvious coping mechanism. The inclusion of Gradus is no doubt Kinbote's mind attempting to further his Zemblan fantasy in order to avoid having to come to terms with the death of Shade and ultimately reality. Likewise, Darger, who was widely

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