Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov: Background information when reading My Dark Vanessa

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My Dark Vanessa

A Novel

by Kate Russell

My Dark Vanessa by Kate Russell X
My Dark Vanessa by Kate Russell
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2020, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2, 2021, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Kim Kovacs
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About this Book

Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov

This article relates to My Dark Vanessa

Butterflies from Vladimir Nabokov's Collection In My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell, a much-older teacher begins his seduction of 15-year-old Vanessa Wye with poetry. One of the works he uses to draw her in is the 1962 Vladimir Nabokov novel Pale Fire. Specifically, a section of verse describes how a fictional poet, John Shade, met his wife on an outing to New Wye Falls. Shade goes on to proclaim his continued love for her over the years, comparing her to a butterfly (Nabokov was himself a known butterfly enthusiast) called a Vanessa, a.k.a. the Vanessa atalanta or Red Admiral, in line 270:

Come and be worshiped, come and be caressed,
My dark Vanessa, crimson-barred, my blest
My Admirable butterfly! …

The instructor points out the obvious parallels to his young pupil, and recites the romantic sections to her to lure her into becoming his lover.

Pale Fire is considered a prime example of metafiction due to its unusual structure and premise. On the surface, it's a volume of poetry (composed by Shade, as ...

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