NABOKV-L post 0021865, Tue, 26 Jul 2011 23:49:22 -0300

Re: Book Of A Lifetime: Lolita, By Vladimir Nabokov ...
Re: [NABOKV-L] Book Of A Lifetime: Lolita, By Vladimir Nabokov ...Stan Kelly-Bootle: I'm sufficiently intrigued to seek out Joanna Briscoe's novel, You*. Of course, the publisher seems to be over-exploiting the Nabokov/Lolita connection considering that Joanna's heroine is well into puberty at 17... Joanna also confuses the complex HH/Lolita relationship by writing: "After a strategic marriage to her mother, he spends the rest of the novel chasing the elusive [my italics] girl, while attempting to thwart a rival." Why do so many readers ignore Lo's lack of in-tacta-hood and HH's surprise when they first hit the sack?

JM: The italics for "elusive" are significant also because they suggest that, initially, Lolita didn't try to seduce mommy's husband (although she was soon disenchanted by the "real" oedipal thing). In a recent discussion about "man-corrupting evil beauty," the subject of otherwordly temptresses came up, among them Venus in particular, as pictured in the story of Tannhäuser. In Lolita, and in various short-stories as well, there are references to the Venus di Milo (a plaster copy in a surrealist setting, for example). However, more explicitly we find that Lolita was once described as a "Venus febriculosa" and later Humbert Humbert concludes: "Curious: although actually her looks had faded, I definitely realized, so hopelessly late in the day, how much she looked - had always looked - like Botticelli's russet Venus - the same soft nose, the same blurred beauty." Perhaps Venus lay in the back of Nabokov's mind when he fashioned his younger russet nymphet and then, rather ironically, portrayed Humbert Humbert's quasi-redemption (for he also seems to have opted for the charms of fairly-land as in the folktale - like it happens to Eichendorff's Raimund in "Die Zauberei im Herbst").

*Joanna Briscoe's novel, 'You', is published by Bloomsbury

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