Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026632, Tue, 17 Nov 2015 14:51:37 -0200

QUERY: The "two titles" of LOLITA?
Wilson Orozco:When you start reading the preface by John Ray, Jr. he says that “Lolita, or the Confession of a White Widowed Male,” such were the two titles under which the writer of the present note received the strange pages it preambulates" then Alfred Appel in one of his notes calls the second title a "subtitle". How do you understand that? Is it in fact two titles (title and subtitle) or can we assume that John Ray chose finally the title of Lolita?

Jansy Mello: In one of VN’s interviews he notes, before reading the initial lines of Lolita’s Russian version: “…Not everybody remembers how Lolita starts in English: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul...” Here the author himself clearly states that the novel’s name is “Lolita,” although somewhere else (actually, in the afterword, when he again emphasizes the same choice when he writes “On a Book Entitled Lolita”*, he recognizes that John Ray Jr. is not an external prefacer, but a character who penned the novel’s first lines: “ After doing my impersonation of suave John Ray, the character in Lolita who pens the Foreword, any comments coming straight from me may strike one — may strike me, in fact — as an impersonation of Vladimir Nabokov talking about his own book. A few points, however, have to be discussed; and the autobiographic device may induce mimic and model to blend.”

The “Confession of a White Widowed Male” sounds like the clinical reports commonly written by psychiatrists or psychologists - not something chosen by Humbert Humbert who, like Nabokov, might have preferred only “Lolita” as a title.

We must keep in mind that John Ray, Jr might have been an unreliable writer, “preambulator” (!) or editor - like C.Kinbote – whereas the “subtitle” remains a choice that could have been left out from “Lolita’s” subsequent editions.** (not Vladimir Nabokov novel’s, since the novel includes the character who writes its foreword***)

Btw: VN seems to favor a special kind of “stable alternative” as in “Ada, or Ardor: a family chronicle.”

*whatever the word game that lurks in his choice of “entitled” for “bearing the title”
** it actually happened in the British 1979 Collins edition of “Lolita”, with a preface by Peter Quennell and no reference to “Confession of…”
*** I suddenly recalled Lewis Carroll’s Haddocks' Eyes.
Following wiki: a term for the name of a poem by <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Carroll> Lewis Carroll from <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Through_the_Looking-Glass> Through the Looking-Glass. It is sung by <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Knight_(Through_the_Looking_Glass)> The White Knight in <https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Through_the_Looking-Glass,_and_What_Alice_Found_There/Chapter_VIII> chapter eight to a tune that he claims as his own invention, but which Alice recognises as " <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Heart_and_Lute> I give thee all, I can no more".By the time Alice heard it, she was already tired of poetry.It is a parody of " <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Resolution_and_Independence> Resolution and Independence" by <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Wordsworth> William Wordsworth.The White Knight explains a confusing nomenclature for the song. The song's name is called Haddocks' Eyes; The song's name is The Aged Aged Man; The song is called Ways and Means; The song is A-sitting on a Gate. The complicated terminology distinguishing between 'the song, what the song is called, the name of the song, and what the name of the song is called' entails the <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Use%E2%80%93mention_distinction> use–mention distinction. <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haddocks%27_Eyes#cite_note-2> [2]

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