Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0018367, Wed, 3 Jun 2009 10:26:44 -0400

Re: THOUGHTS: Anti-Semitism in Lolita

On the theme of American anti-Semitism in* Lolita*:

There is a good deal, I think, though I've never made a complete list. The
ones that jump out in memory are

1) when John Farlow is making an anti-semitic slur that his wife Jean cuts
off (p. 79, and in notes).
2) the "Near Churches" signals to travelers that only Christians were
welcome at various establishments (p. 261, and in notes).
3) Appel further notes that when Humbert's name is translated into
Jewish-sounding "Humberg" by accident, his room at the hotel disappears, and
the place is suddenly completely booked (p. 118).
4) Appel also points out that Quilty posits Humbert may be a "German
refugee" and says in an admonitory way that, "This is a Gentile's house, you
know" (p. 297).

I would add to this list (though I do not claim that they are as explicit as
the above references) the questions about accepting "our Christian God" with
which Charlotte grills Humbert when she suspects him of having in his family
"a certain strange strain" (pp. 74-75), along with the mild inquisition by
Miss Pratt about Humbert's religious beliefs (p. 194).

Steven Belletto looked at this theme from a broader perspective in the very
interesting "Of Pickaninnies and Nymphets: Race in *Lolita*" (*Nabokov
Studies*, vol. 9, 2005, pp. 1-17). And Susan Mizruchi also considers it in "
*Lolita* in History" (*American Literature*, vol. 75, no. 3, September 2003,
pp. 629-652).

Given that we know from his own behavior how strongly Nabokov felt about
anti-Semitism, I think it reasonable to see this as one of many deliberate
themes in the book (I feel that I should always add in regard to
intentionality "Not that it matters!" as the theme can be evaluated whether
or not Nabokov intended it).

There is more, but I thought a few examples might suffice...


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