Reshaping People

I adore Richard Rorty’s introduction to the Everyman edition of Nabokov’s Pale Fire:

But Nabokov helps us remember that we can only respect what we can notice, and that it is often very hard for us to notice that other people are suffering. He also reminds us of the main reason why it is so hard: we all spend a lot of time inventing people rather than noticing them, reshaping real people into characters in stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, stories about how beautiful and rare we are.

2 thoughts on “Reshaping People

  1. If you haven’t read it, you’ll probably also enjoy Rorty’s first essay on Nabokov, “The barber of Kasbeam: Nabokov on cruelty,” in which he discusses primarily “the two novels of [Nabokov’s] acme,” Lolita and Pale Fire, placing them among the sorts of books that “…show how our attempts at autonomy, our private obsessions with the achievement of a certain sort of perfection, may make us oblivious to the pain and humiliation we are causing.” My impression is that Rorty’s second essay, the one that introduces your edition of Pale Fire, expands on points he raised in this earlier piece, which appears in his 1989 collection of essays, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity.

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