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Inverting Kinbote’s
Index
Nabokov Upside Down
12th January 2012
Simon Rowberry
Simon.Rowberry@winchester.ac.uk
Pale Fire as Hypertext
• Pale Fire fits the condition of many
definitions of hypertext:
• link-and-node network model (1st
generation)
• Extensive use of paratextual devices (2nd
generation)
• Hyper + Text
extensible texture
• Both uni- and multi-cursal (ergodic)
• Deconstructed hypertext
• Curiously enough, one cannot read a
book: one can only reread it. A good
reader, a major reader, an active and
creative reader is a rereader‟
• Nabokov, „Good Readers and Good Writers‟
504 explicit connections
37% notes referring to the poem
63% notes referencing other notes
69% of all references coming from the index
A sense of closure
“CHARLES KINBOTE
Oct. 19, 1959, Cedarn, Utana”
“Some neighbor‟s gardener, I guess – goes by
Trundling an empty barrow up the lane”
“But whatever happens, wherever the scene is
laid, somebody, somewhere, will quietly set out –
somebody has already set out, somebody still
rather far away is buying a ticket, is boarding a
bus, a ship, a plane, has landed, is walking
towards a million photographers, and presently
he will ring at my door – a bigger, more
respectable, more competent Gradus.”
“Zembla, a distant northern land.”
What are we meant to do with the
Index?
• “Although those notes, in conformity with
custom, come after the poem, the reader is
advised to consult them first and then study
the poem with their help, rereading them of
course as he goes through its text, and
perhaps, after having done with the poem,
consulting them a third time so as to
complete the picture.” (PF, 25)
• No mention of Index within the bulk of the
commentary either

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Inverting Kinbote's Index

  • 1. Inverting Kinbote’s Index Nabokov Upside Down 12th January 2012 Simon Rowberry Simon.Rowberry@winchester.ac.uk
  • 2. Pale Fire as Hypertext • Pale Fire fits the condition of many definitions of hypertext: • link-and-node network model (1st generation) • Extensive use of paratextual devices (2nd generation) • Hyper + Text extensible texture • Both uni- and multi-cursal (ergodic) • Deconstructed hypertext
  • 3. • Curiously enough, one cannot read a book: one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, an active and creative reader is a rereader‟ • Nabokov, „Good Readers and Good Writers‟
  • 4. 504 explicit connections 37% notes referring to the poem 63% notes referencing other notes 69% of all references coming from the index
  • 5. A sense of closure “CHARLES KINBOTE Oct. 19, 1959, Cedarn, Utana” “Some neighbor‟s gardener, I guess – goes by Trundling an empty barrow up the lane” “But whatever happens, wherever the scene is laid, somebody, somewhere, will quietly set out – somebody has already set out, somebody still rather far away is buying a ticket, is boarding a bus, a ship, a plane, has landed, is walking towards a million photographers, and presently he will ring at my door – a bigger, more respectable, more competent Gradus.” “Zembla, a distant northern land.”
  • 6. What are we meant to do with the Index? • “Although those notes, in conformity with custom, come after the poem, the reader is advised to consult them first and then study the poem with their help, rereading them of course as he goes through its text, and perhaps, after having done with the poem, consulting them a third time so as to complete the picture.” (PF, 25) • No mention of Index within the bulk of the commentary either
  • 7. The Island Model of Pale Fire Figure 2. Generalized model of connections in Pale Fire based on Broder et al’s model Commentary (and foreword) Index Poem Occasional unconnected section 2 connections
  • 8. “An index permits the reader to locate passages that share the same word, phrase, or subject and so associates passages that may be widely separated in the pages of the book. In one sense the index defines other books that could be constructed from the materials at hand, other themes that the author could have formed into an analytical narrative, and so invites the reader to read the book in alternative ways. By offering multiplicity in place of a single order of paragraphs and pages, an index transforms a book from a tree into a network. There need not be any privileged element in a network, as there always is in a tree, no single topic that dominates all others.” • (Bolter 2001:34)
  • 9. Editorial bias or Kinbote‟s confession? • “The index is the second transforming layer covering - or smothering - or totally transforming - a 999-line autobiographical poem” (Bell 1997:209) • “'Bias' would be too weak a word to apply to the indexer's selection and terminology: it gives a fine example of editorial power corrupting. Enemies are disdainfully dismissed, not even accorded naming: mentioned in subheadings, hated 'Prof. C', 'E', and 'Prof. H' are each followed by a parenthesis, '(not in Index); while Shade's beloved wife, Sybil, to whom the poem is addressed throughout, and whom the commentary bitterly denigrates, receives from the vindictive homosexual Kinbote the sole entry: 'Shade, Sybil, S's wife, passim‟” (Bell 1997:210)
  • 11. Inverting Botkin • Botkin, V., American scholar of Russian descent, 894; king-bot, maggot of extinct fly that once bred in mammoths and is thought to have hastened their phylogenetic end, 247; bottekin-maker, 71; bot, plop, and boteliy, big-bellied (Russ.); botkin or bodkin, a Danish stiletto.
  • 12. Inverting Botkin • Botkin, V., bottekin-maker, 71; king- bot, maggot of extinct fly that once bred in mammoths and is thought to have hastened their phylogenetic end, 247; American scholar of Russian descent, 894;
  • 13. Translations, poetical; English into Zemblan, Conmal's version of Shakespeare, Milton, Kipling, etc., noticed, 962; English into French, from Donne and Marvell, 678; German into English and Zemblan, Der Erlkonig, 662; Zemblan into English, Timon Afinsken, of Athens, 39; Elder Edda, 79; Arnor's Miragirl, 80.

Editor's Notes

  1. ----- Meeting Notes (12/01/2012 12:50) -----invert ya russian