317 pages Reissue
edition (March 1989)
its lascivious reputation, the pleasures of Lolita
are as much intellectual as erogenous. It is a love story
with the power to raise both chuckles and eyebrows. Humbert
Humbert is a European intellectual adrift in America, haunted
by memories of a lost adolescent love. When he meets his ideal
nymphet in the shape of 12-year-old Dolores Haze, he constructs
an elaborate plot to seduce her, but first he must get rid
of her mother. In spite of his diabolical wit, reality proves
to be more slippery than Humbert's feverish fantasies, and
Lolita refuses to conform to his image of the perfect lover.
Playfully perverse in form as well as content, riddled with
puns and literary allusions, Nabokov's 1955 novel is a hymn
to the Russian-born author's delight in his adopted language.
Indeed, readers who want to probe all of its allusive nooks
and crannies will need to consult the annotated
edition. Lolita is undoubtedly, brazenly erotic,
but the eroticism springs less from the "frail honey-hued
shoulders ... the silky supple bare back" of little Lo than
it does from the wantonly gorgeous prose that Humbert uses
to recount his forbidden passion:
She was musical and apple-sweet ... Lola the bobby-soxer,
devouring her immemorial fruit, singing through its juice
... and every movement she made, every shuffle and ripple,
helped me to conceal and to improve the secret system of tactile
correspondence between beast and beauty--between my gagged,
bursting beast and the beauty of her dimpled body in its innocent
Much has been made of Lolita as metaphor, perhaps because
the love affair at its heart is so troubling. Humbert represents
the formal, educated Old World of Europe, while Lolita is America:
ripening, beautiful, but not too bright and a little vulgar.
Nabokov delights in exploring the intercourse between these
cultures, and the passages where Humbert describes the suburbs
and strip malls and motels of postwar America are filled with
both attraction and repulsion, "those restaurants where the
holy spirit of Huncan Dines had descended upon the cute paper
napkins and cottage-cheese-crested salads." Yet however tempting
the novel's symbolism may be, its chief delight--and power--lies
in the character of Humbert Humbert. He, at least as he tells
it, is no seedy skulker, no twisted destroyer of innocence.
Instead, Nabokov's celebrated mouthpiece is erudite and witty,
even at his most depraved. Humbert can't help it--linguistic
jouissance is as important to him as the satisfaction
of his arrested libido. --Simon Leake
(1899-1977) was one of the most imaginative and accomplished writers
of the century. Born in Russia, he lived in the United States and
Europe, studying butterflies and other fleeting, vivid facts of life.
-- from The
Times' Obituary of Nabokov, July 5, 1977
The Tragedy of Man Driven by Desire
A review LOLITA.
By ELIZABETH JANEWAY Sunday, August 17, 1958
The first time I read Lolita I thought it was one of the funniest
books IĠd ever come on. (This was the abbreviated version published
in the Anchor Review last year.) The second time I read it, uncut,
I thought it was one of the saddest. I mention this personal reaction
only because Lolita is one of those occasional books which arrive
swishing behind them a long tail of opinion and reputation which
can knock the unwary reader off his feet. Is it shocking, is it
pornographic, is it immoral? Is its reading to be undertaken not
as a simple experience but as a conscious action which will place
one on this, or that, side of a critical dividing line? What does
the Watch and Ward Society say of it? What does Sartre, Graham Greene
or Partisan Review? [read
- The Nabokov Butterfly Net - about Nabokov, his life, works,
and other information for nabokophiles and nabokovians.
Remembering Nabokov - 1999 celebration of the author, including
biography, archive of reviews and related Time Magazine articles,
and an in-depth look at Lolita.
102 Lolita Page - from the University of Arizona. Includes
Links, multimedia, student essays, etc.
Typography and New Media - during the IAP of 1996 and 1997,
students created an experimental "book" using Nabokov's short
story "Signs and Symbols", by using the nature of reading on the
computer to create expressive typography and reading structures
that were metaphoric to some theme or themes in the story.
& Times: Vladimir Nabokov - from The New York Times. Includes
interviews, review archive, forum, and audio clips. Registration
Monthly: Lolita - read this classic 1958 review of the novel
that scandalized the literary world.
Homais Nods - Nabokov's fallibility, or, how to revise Lolita.
Phallus - by Vadim Linetski.
The Poerotic Novel - book review by Maurice Couturier.
York Times: Time Has Been Kind to the Nymphet - by Erica Jong.
A reflection on Lolita, thirty years after its initial publication.
Audio: Vladimir Nabokov - audio of Jeremy Irons reading from
Butterflies - The Atlantic Monthly presents previously unpublished
work, fictional and scientific, by the novelist and distinguished
- Vladimir Nabokov
Russian - in Russian.
- information on and links to the Russian-American novelist, featuring
Nabokovilia, a collection of quotes from other writers on Nabokov.