Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0018358, Sat, 30 May 2009 10:32:16 -0400

THOUGHTS: In repsonse to Rymour's Therese Humbert post
I was so pleased to see Tom Rymour's post about swindler Therese Humbert,
because I've been wondering about both Therese Humbert and Alphonse Humbert,
pondering one "Humbert" from each, I suppose.

Journalist Alphonse Humbert has a complicated biography, but during the
Dreyfus affair in France he played a critical role in the efforts to
discredit Dreyfus. He remained supportive of Dreyfus' conviction long after
it became clear that a conspiracy was afoot. Like many anti-Dreyfusards,
anti-Semitism seems to have played a role in his outspoken stance. He made
some other pretty horrendous statements on this topic. (Sur les pogroms
antisémites Algérie, il considère que les antisémites locaux sont "des
Français très modernes, libre-penseurs pour la plupart.")

One interesting item related to the anti-Semitism angle is that Therese
Humbert was brought down by her own disgraceful anti-Semitic accusations
against a Jewish banker. She described banker Cattaui and his son-in-law as
the "biggest and most terrible usurers who have ever crossed my path,"
saying that they bled her for money. Cattaui was a recipient of the Legion
d'Honneur and was more than willing to fight back. The libel trial he
brought exposed Therese Humbert's unbelievably extensive swindles of both
the very rich and the poor.

Both Dreyfus and Therese Humbert were very much part of the popular
consciousness in Europe in the first half of the 20th century.

Given the subtle indictment of mid-century American anti-Semitism that winds
its way through* Lolita,* I think it's fascinating to consider the name
Humbert in light of that theme.


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