The Annotated Lolita: Revised and Updated

The Annotated Lolita: Revised and Updated by Vladimir Nabokov

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Authors: Vladimir Nabokov
telescope were being spun 360 degrees on its axis, allowing one to look alternately through oneend and then the other. The various “levels” of
are of course not the New Criticism’s “levels of meaning,” for the telescopic and global views of the “plaything” should enable one to perceive these levels or dimensions as instantaneous—as though, to adapt freely an image used by Mary McCarthy to describe
Pale Fire
, one were looking down on three or more games being played simultaneously by two chess masters on several separate glass boards, each arranged successively above the other. 34 A first reading of
rarely affords this limpid, multiform view, and for many reasons, the initially disarming and distractive quality of its ostensible subject being foremost. But the uniquely exhilarating experience of rereading it on its own terms derives from the discovery of a totally new book in place of the old, and the recognition that its habit of metamorphosis has happily described the course of one’s own perceptions. What Jorge Luis Borges says of Pierre Menard, author of the
, surely holds for Vladimir Nabokov, the author of
: he “has enriched, by means of a new technique, the halting and rudimentary art of reading.”
    A LFRED A PPEL , J R .
    Palo Alto, California
January 31, 1968
    Wilmette, Illinois
May 21, 1990
    1 New York, 1941, p. 93. Henceforth, page references will be placed in parentheses in the text, and pertain to the Vintage editions of Nabokov’s novels, interviews, and autobiography, and to the hardcover editions of his other work.
    2 Brian Boyd’s
Vladimir Nabokov: The Russian Years
(Princeton, 1990), the first volume in an anticipated two-volume biography, is recommended.
    3 John Updike, “Grandmaster Nabokov,”
New Republic
, CLI (September 26, 1964), 15. Reprinted in Updike’s
Assorted Prose
(New York, 1965).
    4 Raymond Queneau,
Le Chiendent
(Paris, 1933), p. 294. The above translations are mine—A.A.
    5 Ibid.
    6 James Joyce,
(New York, 1961), p. 567.
., p. 769.
., p. 513.
    9 J. L. Borges, “Partial Magic in the
,” in
(New York, 1964), p. 196. For an excellent analysis of involuted or self-reflexive fiction, see Robert Alter,
Partial Magic: The Novel as a Self-Conscious Genre
(Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1975).
    10 See Nabokov’s article “
and Mr. Girodias,”
Evergreen Review
, XI (February 1967), 37–41.
    11 In a manner similar to Joyce’s, Nabokov four years later paid his respects to Prescott, though not by name, by having the assassin Gradus carefully read
The New York Times
: “A hack reviewer of new books for tourists, reviewing his own tour through Norway, said that the fjords were too famous to need (his) description, and that all Scandinavians loved flowers” (
Pale Fire
, p. 275). This was actually culled from the newspaper.
    12 Also pointed out by Andrew Field, in
Nabokov: His Life in Art
(Boston, 1967), p. 325, and Carl R. Proffer,
Keys to Lolita
(Bloomington, 1968), p. 3.
    13 New York, 1986.
    14 One should remember that the story would have been read by a Russian émigré audience, notes Andrew Field, who quoted the same two passages in his own translation,
op. cit
., pp. 328–329. Strongly erotic (as opposed to pornographic) themes have been used “seriously” far more frequently by Russian writers than by their English and American counterparts. Field points to Dostoevsky (the suppressed chapter of
The Possessed
), Leskov, Sologub, Kuzmin, Rozanov, Kuprin, Pilnyak, Babel, and Bunin (
., p. 332).
    15 And speaking specifically of the writing of
, he says, “She was like the composition of a beautiful puzzle—its composition and its solution at the same time, since one is a mirror view of the other, depending on the way you look.”
    16 Penelope Gilliatt, “Nabokov,”
, No. 2170 (December 1966), p. 280.
    18 Anthony Burgess, “Poet and Pedant,”

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