RES: [NABOKV-L] BIB: On the name "Lolita" ... Maar and Dorothy
C. Kunin: Very interesting - a third literary Lolita - I'll be hornswoggled!
this Lolita (that is Dorothy Parker's), though "not morose" does seem more
to fit the description of Hazel Shade.But all seriousness aside, first of
all shouldn't that be cryptamnesia? We know that VN was not above stealing
(perhaps cryptamnesially) a good joke - remember we discussed the "next
swan" joke that he took from the famous Wagnerian tenor, Leo Slezak? If he
did it once (but where? I've forgotten) why not twice? If it is so
unimportant why did so many get into such a snit over Maar's discovery of
the von Lichberg Lolita? It matters a lot for the understanding of Nabokov,
to understand how his mind worked. It may be "somehow secondary" but at this
point is there much primary left to discuss? I think it behooves us to
remember that Vladimir Nabokov was not some super human being and could very
well have forgotten something he read, that still lingered somewhere in his
mind and re-emerged years later as Dolores Haze. It happens with
butterflies, after all. Since both "Lolitas" (Nabokov's and Parker's) were
published in '55 it doesn't seem possible that there could be a question of
plagiarism there. Remember that Nabokov's novel first appeared in Paris in
English by means of a French publisher of pornography and so was not exactly
on the best-seller list of the day. If you are suggesting that VN
plagiarized from Parker, there simply wasn't enough time. I find that the
possibility that VN did read the von Lichberg story can't be dismissed but
that Parker plagiarized from VN or he from her makes no sense at all.
Jansy Mello: The "next swan" joke appears in the English "Laughter in the
Dark" but I remember that the narrator notes that he is retelling an old
The word I'm familiar with is "cryptomnesia," with an "o".
There are a few discussions online about Dorothy Parker's "Lolita," but I
remember only the comments about her having read VN's manuscript while it
was still unpublished in America, having gained access to it through "The
New Yorker's" editor, K. White. I suppose these stories are still available
in the internet.
The "Lolita" theme came up in V. Nabokov long before 1955, in "The Gift," in
"The Enchanter" and in the short-story "A Nursery tale"*. It continued to be
present in VN's mind: he needed no other prompting from the "outside" for
coming up with HH's fantasies. I never thought that VN was a "super human
being". Writers are known to "steal" objects, landscapes, images or ideas
from other writers, as did Coleridge and as in the famous joke about Oscar
Wilde**. VN's techniques of ekphrasis might be worth considering here as a
substitutes for the verb "to steal".
I see no reason why VN would have failed to indicate von Lichberg's name
should he have remembered it (its deliberate omission would add too much
importance to von Lichberg alone). Nevertheless Beth Sweeney's arguments at
the List today ( "Carolyn suggests that my claim that Humbert generally
refers to Dolores as "Lolita" only in his narration, not in his actual
interactions with her, reinforces the possibility that Nabokov was
influenced by Heinz von Lichberg's 1916 story "Lolita," as Michael Maar
suggested in The Two Lolitas/ . I agree that if the name "Lolita" is even
more more imaginary, private, and fictitious than many readers have assumed,
this does support the argument that Nabokov drew on other, earlier instances
of the name in literature to describe Humbert's construction" present a
strong argument in favor of HH's construction related to the various sources
for Lolita's name. However there aren't many "actual interactions"
reproduced in the novel, are there?
* "A Nursery Tale" (Skazka) was written in Berlin in late May or early June
1926, and serialized in the emigre daily Rul' (Berlin), in the issues of
June 27 and 29 of that year. It was reprinted in my Vozvrashchenie Chorba
collection, Slovo, Berlin, 1930. A rather artificial affair, composed a
little hastily, with more concern for the tricky plot than for imagery and
good taste, it required some revamping here and there in the English
version. Young Erwin's harem, however, has remained intact. I had not reread
my "Skazka" since 1930 and, when working now at its translation, was eerily
startled to meet a somewhat decrepit but unmistakable Humbert escorting his
nymphet in the story I wrote almost half a century ago." (Appendix, The
Stories of Vladimir Nabokov).
**Oscar Wilde: I wish I had said that.
James McNeill Whistler: You will, Oscar, you will. (attrib)
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