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Lolita - 2 Volumes by Vladimir Nabokov. Paris. 1959. Olympia Press. keywords: Literature America Russia. 411 pages. September 1959.

 

One of the most compelling stories of love and obsession ever written, LOLITA is a book that you will never forget. 

 

 

lolita olympia pressFROM THE PUBLISHER -

 

 

   LOLITA is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, first published in 1955 in Paris. The novel is both famous for its innovative style and infamous for its controversial subject: the book's narrator and main character Humbert Humbert becomes sexually obsessed with a pubescent girl, who is aged 12 years when most of the novel takes place. The novel was adapted to film twice, once in 1962 by Stanley Kubrick and again in 1997 by Adrian Lyne. A divorced scholar in his late thirties, Humbert leaves Europe for the United States and moves into a rented room in the home of Charlotte Haze, after seeing her twelve-year-old daughter Dolores sunbathing in the garden. Humbert, who has had a lifelong passion for 'nymphets' - as a pre-adolescent, he experienced the loss of his childhood sweetheart to typhus - is instantly smitten, and will do anything to be near her. The novel is a tragicomedy narrated by Humbert, who riddles the narrative with wordplay and his wry observations of American culture. His humor provides an effective counterpoint to the pathos of the tragic plot. The novel's flamboyant style is characterized by word play, double entendres, multilingual puns, anagrams, and coinages such as nymphet, a word which has since had a life of its own and can be found in most dictionaries, and the lesser used 'faunlet'. Nabokov's LOLITA is far from an endorsement of pedophilia, since it dramatizes the tragic consequences of Humbert's obsession with the young heroine. Nabokov himself described Humbert as 'a vain and cruel wretch' and 'a hateful person' Humbert is a well-educated, multilingual, literary-minded European emigre. He fancies himself a great artist, but lacks the curiosity that Nabokov considers essential. Humbert tells the story of a Lolita that he creates in his mind because he is unable and unwilling to actually listen to the girl and accept her on her own terms. In the words of Richard Rorty, from his famous interpretation of LOLITA in CONTINGENCY, IRONY, AND SOLIDARITY, Humbert is a 'monster of incuriosity'. Some critics have accepted Humbert's version of events at face value. In 1959, novelist Robertson Davies excused the narrator entirely, writing that the theme of LOLITA is 'not the corruption of an innocent child by a cunning adult, but the exploitation of a weak adult by a corrupt child'. Most writers, however, have given less credit to Humbert and more to Nabokov's powers as an ironist. Martin Amis, in his essay on Stalinism, KOBA THE DREAD, proposes that LOLITA is an elaborate metaphor for the totalitarianism which destroyed the Russia of Nabokov's childhood Amis interprets it as a story of tyranny told from the point of view of the tyrant. 'All of Nabokov's books are about tyranny,' he says, 'even LOLITA. Perhaps LOLITA most of all'. In 2003, Iranian expatriate Azar Nafisi published the memoir READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN about an illicit women's reading group. In this book the psychological and political interpretations of Lolita are united, since as female intellectuals in Iran, Nafisi and her students were denied both public liberty and private sexual selfhood. Although rejecting a too-easy identification of Lolita's captivity with that of her students Nafisi writes of her students' strong emotional connection with the book: 'what linked us so closely was this perverse intimacy of victim and jailer' and 'like Lolita we tried to escape and create our own little pockets of freedom'. For Nafisi the essence of the novel is Humbert's solipsism and his erasure of Lolita's independent identity. She writes: 'Lolita was given to us as Humbert's creature [. ] To reinvent her, Humbert must take from Lolita her own real history and replace it with his own [. ] Yet she does have a past. Despite Humbert's attempts to orphan Lolita by robbing her of her history, that past is still given to us in glimpses'. One of the novel's early champions, Lionel Trilling, warned in 1958 of the moral difficulty in interpreting a book with so eloquent and so self-deceived a narrator: 'we find ourselves the more shocked when we realize that, in the course of reading the novel, we have come virtually to condone the violation it presents [. ] we have been seduced into conniving in the violation, because we have permitted our fantasies to accept what we know to be revolting'. Because of the subject matter, Nabokov had difficulty finding a publisher, eventually resorting to Olympia Press, a publisher of 'erotica' in Paris, which published LOLITA in September 15, 1955. Nabokov VladimirA favorable notice by English author Graham Greene led to widespread critical admiration for the book, and its eventual U. S. publication on August 18, 1958, by G. P. Putnam's Sons. Today, it is considered by many one of the finest novels written in the 20th century. In 1998, it was named the fourth greatest novel of the 20th century by the Modern Library.

 

 

VLADIMIR NABOKOV (1899-1977) was one of the twentieth century's greatest writers in Russian and English. Poet, novelist, dramatist, memoirist, critic, translator, essayist, and scientist, he was awarded the National Medal for Literature in 1973. He taught creative writing and Russian literature at Wellesley, Stanford, Cornell, and Harvard. Among his most celebrated works are LOLITA; PALE FIRE; ADA; SPEAK, MEMORY; and his translation of Pushkin's EUGENE ONEGIN.

 

 

 

 

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