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The Annotated Lolita: Revised and Updated

by

The Annotated Lolita: Revised and Updated Cover

ISBN13: 9780679727293
ISBN10: 0679727299
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The annotated text of this modern classic. It assiduously illuminates the extravagant wordplay and the frequent literary allusions, parodies, and cross-references. Edited with a preface, introduction and notes by Alfred Appel, Jr.

Description:

Includes bibliographical references (p. 319-457).

About the Author

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Nabokovs were known for their high culture and commitment to public service, and the elder Nabokov was an outspoken opponent of antisemitism and one of the leaders of the opposition party, the Kadets. In 1919, following the Bolshevik revolution, he took his family into exile. Four years later he was shot and killed at a political rally in Berlin while trying to shield the speaker from right-wing assassins.

The Nabokov household was trilingual, and as a child Nabokov was already reading Wells, Poe, Browning, Keats, Flaubert, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Tolstoy, and Chekhov, alongside the popular entertainments of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne. As a young man, he studied Slavic and romance languages at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his honors degree in 1922. For the next eighteen years he lived in Berlin and Paris, writing prolifically in Russian under the pseudonym Sirin and supporting himself through translations, lessons in English and tennis, and by composing the first crossword puzzles in Russian. In 1925 he married Vera Slonim, with whom he had one child, a son, Dmitri.

Having already fled Russia and Germany, Nabokov became a refugee once more in 1940, when he was forced to leave France for the United States. There he taught at Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell. He also gave up writing in Russian and began composing fiction in English. In his afterword to Lolita he claimed: "My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody's concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English, devoid of any of those apparatuses--the baffling mirror, the black velvet backdrop, the implied associations and traditions--which the native illusionist, frac-tails flying, can magically use to transcend the heritage in his own way." [p. 317] Yet Nabokov's American period saw the creation of what are arguably his greatest works, Bend Sinister (1947), Lolita (1955), Pnin (1957), and Pale Fire (1962), as well as the translation of his earlier Russian novels into English. He also undertook English translations of works by Lermontov and Pushkin and wrote several books of criticism. Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.

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Coal Shin, April 30, 2009 (view all comments by Coal Shin)
Lolita is arguably the most mechanically sound book ever written, and it certainly ranks in the top tier of book complexity. The witty, well read and articulate Nabokov gives his unique perspective on romance and pedophilia in this tragicomedic parody. This book is for people with a Rubix complex and a fully developed sense of dark comedy—there are puzzles on every page, as well as a plethora of taboo jokes. Though Nabokov did not want Lolita to serve a purpose higher than the pure joy of language and literature, John Ray Jr would have the reader believe it is “a tragic tale tending unswervingly to nothing less than a moral apotheosis” (3). One thing that is certain, is that it is a parody of the epic love novels Nabokov detested reading as a child.

Nabokov was born in Russia, to a trilingual family that spoke Russian, English, and French. In his memoir, Speak, Memory, he claims that his father taught him to write in English before Russian—one reason that his control of English prose is so absolute, despite his nationality. The idea for the book came to him upon hearing the story of the first ape to produce a charcoal drawing; it drew the bars of its cage. This tragic story eventually transformed into Lolita, a book about love, revenge, and pedophilia. It was so highly controversial at the time that Nabokov was decried as a monster for writing such a beautiful book about such a horrid subject. To defend himself, he produced a three page afterword explaining his thoughts on the book and his hatred for its protagonist. By Nabokov’s own account, it sounds like the writing of suave John Ray, which lets the afterword parallel the forward like a mirror.

The novel begins with John Ray Jr’s introduction, and the promise that “this remarkable memoir is presented intact” (3). Humbert Humbert (HH) begins his memoir by recounting his childhood love affair with Annabel Leigh (an allusion to the Poe poem of the same name) on the French Rivera. HH’s young love dies before he can ‘possess’ her and this begins his life long infatuation with what he dubs ‘nymphets’. He studies French literature in college, and then moves to America. While looking for a place to stay, he finds another nymphet who has the same sunglasses his Annabel had—so he falls in lust with Dolores Haze (Lolita). Due to this new found lust “the twenty-five years [he] had lived since then, tapered to a palpitating point, and vanished” (39). To keep suspicion away HH marries Lolita’s mother, the widower, Mrs. Haze. She ultimately discovers her husband’s immorality, but a deus ex machine car kills her before she can do anything about it. Taking advantage of his newfound freedom as Lolita’s only guardian, HH takes the nymphet to a series of motels where he bribes her for sexual favors. The book chronicles the two years he spent with his young love, and the ensuing revenge he must take on her other lover. The book is riddled with wordplay and allusions to the French literature HH studied in college. It is structurally similar to a complex spider web—the entire plot is interconnected and foreshadowed, thus predictable, but only if the reader can find all of the clues left by HH and Nabokov. If the reader knows where to look, it is also a parody of the traditional love story.

Lolita is a brilliant parody of romance novels. Instead of a “legitimate” love story the reader finds the same poetic devotion, but this time it is to a twelve-year old girl instead of Juliet. Nabokov pokes fun at the genre with beautifully written prose that mirrors typical romantic style. Throughout the book he uses the locutions of several Roman romantics, such as the echo of Catullus in the line “That Lolita, my Lolita” (65) that reappears several times throughout the book. He uses the syntax and diction of the romantics in a way that they would vehemently disapprove of. However, he takes great pains to assure the reader that the book is not pornographic. “I am not concerned with so-called “sex” at all. Anybody can imagine those elements of animality.” (134). However, the vocabulary-endowed reader will notice quite a few obscene terms, such as “Glans” (107) or “Duk Duk” (276), that appear throughout the text. This is joke by Nabokov on the reader: he promises not to write erotica but does so anyway, hiding it in obscure or foreign words, puns, and anagrammatic character names (such as Miss Lester and Miss Fabian on 179). Nabokov openly parodies love novels through HH’s humor as well as his unintentionally comedic lust.

Humbert’s serious and thick prose is intermittently interrupted by comedic inserts. In the middle of a tense scene where HH believes he has been found out by one of Lolita’s school teachers, he humorously wonders, “Should I marry Pratt and strangle her?” (197). All of these comedic jests and hidden obscenities are Nabokov’s way of dismissing the love genre. The extent to which he takes the comedy makes him a successful parodist, because he satirized all the ridiculousness inherent in harlequin romance novels—from obscenities to over zealous love. In all, Lolita herself sums up Nabokov’s parody the best: “this world was just one gag after another” (273).
The elements of parody and humor that run throughout Nabokov’s work “makes us entranced with the book while abhorring its author!” (5). It is a tangled web of words that is one large dark joke, with which Nabokov successfully and fatally lampoons the traditional love story. This book is not for the easily offended or the sexual deviant. It is for the sarcastic cynic that can see the humor in parody, and the linguist that wishes to enjoy the vast lexis of puns and allusions. Ultimately, even if the reader does not fall in love with Humbert Humbert, he will still respect the intricate and hilarious Lolita.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780679727293
Other:
Nabokov, Vladimir
Publisher:
Vintage Books
Author:
Nabokov, Vladimir
Location:
New York :
Subject:
General
Subject:
Fiction
Subject:
Middle aged men
Subject:
Classics
Subject:
Girls
Subject:
Love stories
Subject:
Erotic stories
Subject:
Erotic fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
fiction;literature;novel;annotated;classic;classics;20th century;russian;pedophilia;nabokov;obsession;sex;american literature;american;russian literature;lolita;love;sexuality;literary criticism;1950s;russia;satire;road trip;criticism;made into movie;crim
Subject:
fiction;literature;novel;annotated;classic;classics;20th century;russian;pedophilia;nabokov;obsession;sex;american literature;american;russian literature;lolita;love;sexuality;literary criticism;1950s;russia;satire;road trip;criticism;made into movie;crim
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series:
Vintage
Series Volume:
101-36
Publication Date:
19910431
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
544
Dimensions:
8 x 5.19 x 0.95 in 0.9 lb

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