cicadas, Gradus, onhava-onhava, Izumrudov, Colonel Gusev & Starover Blue in Pale Fire

Submitted by Alexey Sklyarenko on Sat, 02/16/2019 - 08:56

In Canto Two of his poem John Shade (the poet in VN’s novel Pale Fire, 1962) mentions a singing cicada:


Today I'm sixty-one. Waxwings

Are berry-pecking. A cicada sings. (ll. 181-182)


In his Commentary Kinbote (Shade’s mad commentator who imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla) writes:


The bird of lines 1-4 and 131 is again with us. It will reappear in the ultimate line of the poem; and another cicada, leaving its envelope behind, will sing triumphantly at lines 236-244. (note to Lines 181-182)


In Line 243 of his poem Shade mentions “the poor sea gulls:”


Life is a message scribbled in the dark.


                           Espied on a pine's bark,

As we were walking home the day she died,

An empty emerald case, squat and frog-eyed,

Hugging the trunk; and its companion piece,

A gum-logged ant.

                                      That Englishman in Nice,

A proud and happy linguist: je nourris

Les pauvres cigales - meaning that he

Fed the poor sea gulls!

                                               Lafontaine was wrong:

Dead is the mandible, alive the song.


And so I pare my nails, and muse, and hear

Your steps upstairs, and all is right, my dear. (ll. 236-246)


Chayka (“The Seagull,” 1896) is a play by Chekhov (who lived in Nice in the late 1890s). In his diary (the entry of May 4, 1897) Chekhov says that in Melikhovo he was visited by Dasha Musin-Pushkin (whose husband, engineer Glebov, was killed during a hunt), aka Cicada, who sang a lot:


Приезжала Даша Мусина-Пушкина, вдова инженера Глебова, убитого на охоте, она же Цикада. Много пела».


In his story Dama s sobachkoy (“The Lady with the Dog,” 1899) Chekhov mentions cicadas:


В Ореанде сидели на скамье, недалеко от церкви, смотрели вниз на море и молчали. Ялта была едва видна сквозь утренний туман, на вершинах гор неподвижно стояли белые облака. Листва не шевелилась на деревьях, кричали цикады и однообразный, глухой шум моря, доносившийся снизу, говорил о покое, о вечном сне, какой ожидает нас. Так шумело внизу, когда еще тут не было ни Ялты, ни Ореанды, теперь шумит и будет шуметь так же равнодушно и глухо, когда нас не будет. И в этом постоянстве, в полном равнодушии к жизни и смерти каждого из нас кроется, быть может, залог нашего вечного спасения, непрерывного движения жизни на земле, непрерывного совершенства.


At Oreanda they sat on a seat not far from the church, looked down at the sea, and were silent. Yalta was hardly visible through the morning mist; white clouds stood motionless on the mountain-tops. The leaves did not stir on the trees, cicadas twanged, and the monotonous hollow sound of the sea rising up from below, spoke of the peace, of the eternal sleep awaiting us. So it must have sounded when there was no Yalta, no Oreanda here; so it sounds now, and it will sound as indifferently and monotonously when we are all no more. And in this constancy, in this complete indifference to the life and death of each of us, there lies hid, perhaps, a pledge of our eternal salvation, of the unceasing movement of life upon earth, of unceasing progress towards perfection. (chapter II)


As he speaks to his daughter (a schoolgirl of twelve), Gurov (the main character in Chekhov’s story), uses the phrase tri gradusa tepla (three degrees above freezing-point):


— Теперь три градуса тепла, а между тем идёт снег, — говорил Гуров дочери. — Но ведь это тепло только на поверхности земли, в верхних же слоях атмосферы совсем другая температура.

“It’s three degrees above freezing-point, and yet it is snowing,” said Gurov to his daughter. “The thaw is only on the surface of the earth; there is quite a different temperature at a greater height in the atmosphere.” (chapter IV)


On July 5, 1959 (the day on which Shade began Canto Two), Gradus (Shade’s murderer) left Onhava (the capital of Zembla) on the Copenhagen plane:


On July 5th, at noontime, in the other hemisphere, on the rain-swept tarmac of the Onhava airfield, Gradus, holding a French passport, walked toward a Russian commercial plane bound for Copenhagen, and this event synchronized with Shade's starting in the early morning (Atlantic seaboard time) to compose, or to set down after composing in bed, the opening lines of Canto Two. When almost twenty-four hours later he got to line 230, Gradus, after a refreshing night at the summer house of our consul in Copenhagen, an important Shadow, had entered, with the Shadow, a clothes store in order to conform to his description in later notes (to lines 286 and 408). Migraine again worse today. (note to Line 181)


According to Kinbote, onhava-onhava means in Zemblan “far, far away:”


On the morning of July 16 (while Shade was working on the 698-746 section of his poem) dull Gradus, dreading another day of enforced inactivity in sardonically, sparkling, stimulatingly noisy Nice, decided that until hunger drove him out he would not budge from a leathern armchair in the simulacrum of a lobby among the brown smells of his dingy hotel. Unhurriedly he went through a heap of old magazines on a nearby table. There he sat, a little monument of taciturnity, sighing, puffing out his cheeks, licking his thumb before turning a page, gaping at the pictures, and moving his lips as he climbed down the columns of printed matter. Having replaced everything in a neat pile, he sank back in his chair closing and opening his gabled hands in various constructions of tedium - when a man who had occupied a seat next to him got up and walked into the outer glare leaving his paper behind. Gradus pulled it into his lap, spread it out - and froze over a strange piece of local news that caught his eye: burglars had broken into Villa Disa and ransacked a bureau, taking from a jewel box a number of valuable old medals.

Here was something to brood upon. Had this vaguely unpleasant incident some bearing on his quest? Should he do something about it? Cable headquarters? Hard to word succinctly a simple fact without having it look like a cryptogram. Airmail a clipping? He was in his room working on the newspaper with a safety razor blade when there was a bright rap-rap at the door. Gradus admitted an unexpected visitor - one of the greater Shadows, whom he had thought to be onhava-onhava ("far, far away"), in wild, misty, almost legendary Zembla! What stunning conjuring tricks our magical mechanical age plays with old mother space and old father time!

He was a merry, perhaps overmerry, fellow, in a green velvet jacket. Nobody liked him, but he certainly had a keen mind. His name, Izumrudov, sounded rather Russian but actually meant “of the Umruds,” an Eskimo tribe sometimes seen paddling their umyaks (hide-lined boats) on the emerald waters of our northern shores. Grinning, he said friend Gradus must get together his travel documents, including a health certificate, and take the earliest available jet to New York. Bowing, he congratulated him on having indicated with such phenomenal acumen the right place and the right way. Yes, after a thorough perlustration of the loot that Andron and Niagarushka had obtained from the Queen's rosewood writing desk (mostly bills, and treasured snapshots, and those silly medals) a letter from the King did turn up giving his address which was of all places -- Our man, who interrupted the herald of success to say he had never -- was bidden not to display so much modesty. A slip of paper was now produced on which Izumudrov, shaking with laughter (death is hilarious), wrote out for Gradus their client's alias, the name of the university where he taught, and that of the town where it was situated. No, the slip was not for keeps. He could keep it only while memorizing it. This brand of paper (used by macaroon makers) was not only digestible but delicious. The gay green vision withdrew - to resume his whoring no doubt. How one hates such men! (note to Line 741)


At the end of “The Lady with the Dog” Chekhov uses the phrase daleko-daleko (far, far away):


Потом они долго советовались, говорили о том, как избавить себя от необходимости прятаться, обманывать, жить в разных городах, не видеться подолгу. Как освободиться от этих невыносимых пут?

- Как? Как? - спрашивал он, хватая себя за голову. - Как?

И казалось, что ещё немного - и решение будет найдено, и тогда начнётся новая, прекрасная жизнь; и обоим было ясно, что до конца ещё далеко-далеко и что самое сложное и трудное только ещё начинается.


Then they discussed their situation for a long time, trying to think how they could get rid of the necessity for hiding, deception, living in different towns, being so long without meeting. How were they to shake off these intolerable fetters?

“How? How?” he repeated, clutching his head. “How?”

And it seemed to them that they were within an inch of arriving at A decision, and that then a new, beautiful life would begin. And they both realized that the end was still far, far away, and that the hardest, the most complicated part was only just beginning. (chapter IV)


Shade’s birthday, July 5 is also Kinbote’s and Gradus’ birthday. On July 5, 1959, Kinbote and Gradus (both of whom were born in 1915) are forty-four. Chekhov died in July 1904, at the age of forty-four.


In a letter of Oct. 30, 1903, to his wife Chekhov (who lived alone in Yalta) complains that paring his fingernails on the right hand is a torture:


Что за мучение обрезать ногти на правой руке. Без жены мне вообще плохо.


In ll. 183-184 Shade mentions the little scissors with which he pares his fingernails:


The little scissors I am holding are

A dazzling synthesis of sun and star.

I stand before the window and I pare

My fingernails and vaguely am aware

Of certain flinching likenesses: the thumb,

Our grocer's son; the index, lean and glum

College astronomer Starover Blue;

The middle fellow, a tall priest I knew;

The feminine fourth finger, an old flirt;

And little pinky clinging to her skirt.

And I make mouths as I snip off the thin

Strips of what Aunt Maud used to call "scarf-skin." (ll. 183-194)


At the end of his story Gusev (1890) Chekhov compares one of the clouds to a pair of scissors:


А наверху в это время, в той стороне, где заходит солнце, скучиваются облака; одно облако похоже на триумфальную арку, другое на льва, третье на ножницы... Из-за облаков выходит широкий зелёный луч и протягивается до самой средины неба; немного погодя рядом с этим ложится фиолетовый, рядом с ним золотой, потом розовый... Небо становится нежно-сиреневым. Глядя на это великолепное, очаровательное небо, океан сначала хмурится, но скоро сам приобретает цвета ласковые, радостные, страстные, какие на человеческом языке и назвать трудно.

Overhead at this time the clouds are massed together on the side where the sun is setting; one cloud like a triumphal arch, another like a lion, a third like a pair of scissors.... From behind the clouds a broad, green shaft of light pierces through and stretches to the middle of the sky; a little later another, violet-colored, lies beside it; next that, one of gold, then one rose-colored.... The sky turns a soft lilac. Looking at this gorgeous, enchanted sky, at first the ocean scowls, but soon it, too, takes tender, joyous, passionate colors for which it is hard to find a name in human speech. (chapter V)


Describing his parents, Kinbote mentions Colonel Gusev, King Alfin’s ‘aerial adjutant:’


King's Alfin's absent-mindedness was strangely combined with a passion for mechanical things, especially for flying apparatuses. In 1912, he managed to rise in an umbrella-like Fabre "hydroplane" and almost got drowned in the sea between Nitra and Indra. He smashed two Farmans, three Zemblan machines, and a beloved Santos Dumont Demoiselle. A very special monoplane, Blenda IV, was built for him in 1916 by his constant "aerial adjutant" Colonel Peter Gusev (later a pioneer parachutist and, at seventy, one of the greatest jumpers of all time), and this was his bird of doom. On the serene, and not too cold, December morning that the angels chose to net his mild pure soul, King Alfin was in the act of trying solo a tricky vertical loop that Prince Andrey Kachurin, the famous Russian stunter and War One hero, had shown him in Gatchina. Something went wrong, and the little Blenda was seen to go into an uncontrolled dive. Behind and above him, in a Caudron biplane, Colonel Gusev (by then Duke of Rahl) and the Queen snapped several pictures of what seemed at first a noble and graceful evolution but then turned into something else. At the last moment, King Alfin managed to straighten out his machine and was again master of gravity when, immediately afterwards, he flew smack into the scaffolding of a huge hotel which was being constructed in the middle of a coastal heath as if for the special purpose of standing in a king's way. This uncompleted and badly gutted building was ordered razed by Queen Blenda who had it replaced by a tasteless monument of granite surmounted by an improbable type of aircraft made of bronze. The glossy prints of the enlarged photographs depicting the entire catastrophe were discovered one day by eight-year-old Charles Xavier in the drawer of a secretary bookcase. In some of these ghastly pictures one could make out the shoulders and leathern casque of the strangely unconcerned aviator, and in the penultimate one of the series, just before the white-blurred shattering crash, one distinctly saw him raise one arm in triumph, and reassurance. The boy had hideous dreams after that but his mother never found out that he had seen those infernal records. (note to Line 71)


Demoiselle is French for “dragonfly.” In a footnote to her translation of Shade’s poem Vera Nabokov points out that Krylov translated Lafontaine’s fable La Cigale et la Fourmi as Strekoza i muravey (“The Dragonfly and the Ant”). Strekoza (“The Dragonfly”) is a magazine in which young Chekhov published his humorous short stories.


Shade compares his index finger to the College astronomer Starover Blue. In his article Sotsial-demokraticheskaya dushechka (“The Social-Democratic Darling,” 1905) Lenin compares Tov. Starover (Comrade Old Believer) to the heroine of Chekhov’s story Dushechka (“The Darling,” 1899):


«Тов. Старовер очень похож на героиню чеховского рассказа „Душечка“. Душечка жила сначала с антрепренёром и говорила: мы с Ванечкой ставим серьёзные пьесы. Потом жила она с торговцем лесом и говорила: мы с Васечкой возмущены высоким тарифом на лес. Наконец, жила с ветеринаром и говорила: мы с Колечкой лечим лошадей. Так и тов. Старовер. „Мы с Лениным“ ругали Мартынова. „Мы с Мартыновым“ ругаем Ленина. Милая социал-демократическая душечка! в чьих-то объятиях очутишься ты завтра?»


In his Commentary Kinbote mockingly calls Gradus Vinogradus and Leningradus:


All this is as it should be; the world needs Gradus. But Gradus should not kill kings. Vinogradus should never, never provoke God. Leningradus should not aim his peashooter at people even in dreams, because if he does, a pair of colossally thick, abnormally hairy arms will hug him from behind and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. (note to Line 171)


As pointed out by Kinbote, "Leningrad used to be Petrograd" and, prior to 1914, the city's name was St. Petersburg. Peterburg ("Petersburg," 1914) is a novel by Andrey Bely. In his review of Bely’s novel Andrey Polyanin (the penname of Sofia Parnok) quotes Tolstoy’s words from his Afterword to Chekhov's “Darling:”


С благоговением вспоминается фраза Льва Толстого из чудесного его "Послесловия" к рассказу Чехова "Душечка:" "Любовь не менее свята, будет ли её предметом Кукин или Спиноза, Паскаль, Шиллер".

"Love is no less sacred whether its object is Kukin or Spinoza, Pascal, Schiller."


Kuprin’s story about a racehorse, Izumrud (1907), is dedicated to the memory of Tolstoy’s Kholstomer (“Strider: the Story of a Horse”). In his essay on Utochkin (an aviation pioneer whose name comes from utochka, “little duck;” Gusev comes from gus’, “goose”) Kuprin (who lived in Gatchina in the 1910s) mentions Dyuk (cf. Duke of Rahl), the monument of Duc de Richelieu in Odessa. In Mys Guron (“Cape Huron,” 1929) Kuprin mentions a Russian lady who mistook the song of Provencal cicadas for a bird:


 Да, провансальская цикада – это существо, которое бесспорно страдает эротическим умопомешательством. От раннего света до последнего света и даже позднее они бесстыдно кричат о любви. Никому не известно, когда они успевают покушать. Цикада-самец целый день барабанит своими ножками по каким-то звучащим перепонкам на брюшке, призывая громко и нагло самочку. Оттого-то его жизнь так и недолговечна: всего три дня. Как себя ведут в это время самки, я не знаю, да, по правде сказать, и не интересуюсь. Это дело специалистов. Я не берусь описать неумолчный крик цикад. По-моему, самое лучшее его описание сделал покойный поэт Александр Рославлев. Он говорил, что этот крик похож на тот трещащий звук, который мы слышим, заводя карманные часы. Так вот, вообразите, что триста тысяч опытных, ловких, но нетерпеливых часовщиков заводят наперегонки все часы в своем магазине, но только крик цикад раз в сто громче.

Одна моя знакомая дама сказала мне в Ля-Фавьере:

– Однако какие надоедливые эти птицы – цикады! А когда я поймал и принёс ей эту муху, очень похожую на нашу шпанскую муху, она сказала обиженно:

– Ах, я думала, что это такая птичка. И наружность у неё отвратительна, и голос у неё препротивный! (chapter I)


In the first poem of her collection Loza (“The Vine,” 1922) Sofia Parnok mentions tresk tsikad (the song of cicadas), vinograd (grapes) and Sugdeyskaya Sibilla (“the Sugdeyan Sybil;” Sugdeya is the Greek name of Sudak, a place in the Crimea, between Feodosia and Yalta):


Там родина моя, где восходил мой дух,
Как в том солончаке лоза; где откипела
Кровь трудная моя, и окрылился слух,
И немощи своей возрадовалось тело.

Там музыкой огня звучал мне треск цикад
И шорохи земли, надтреснутой от зноя,
Там поднесла ты мне прохладный виноград
К губам обугленным - причастие святое...

И если то был сон, то, чтобы я
Сна незабвенного вовеки не забыла,
О, восприемница прекрасная моя,
Хотя во снах мне снись, Сугдейская Сибилла!


The “real” name of both Sybil Shade (the poet's wife) and Queen Disa (Kinbote’s wife) seems to be Sofia Botkin (born Lastochkin). Mot i lastochka ("The Spendthrift and the Swallow") is a fable by Krylov. Describing his parents, Kinbote mentions King Alfin's only memorable mot:


Alfin the Vague (1873-1918; regnal dates 1900-1918, but 1900-1919 in most biographical dictionaries, a fumble due to the coincident calendar change from Old Style to New) was given his cognomen by Amphitheatricus, a not unkindly writer of fugitive poetry in the liberal gazettes (who was also responsible for dubbing my capital Uranograd!). King Alfin's absent-mindedness knew no bounds. He was a wretched linguist, having at his disposal only a few phrases of French and Danish, but every time he had to make a speech to his subjects - to a group of gaping Zemblan yokels in some remote valley where he had crash-landed - some uncontrollable switch went into action in his mind, and he reverted to those phrases, flavoring them for topical sense with a little Latin. Most of the anecdotes relating to his naïve fits of abstraction are too silly and indecent to sully these pages; but one of them that I do not think especially funny induced such guffaws from Shade (and returned to me, via the Common Room, with such obscene accretions) that I feel inclined to give it here as a sample (and as a corrective). One summer before the first world war, when the emperor of a great foreign realm (I realize how few there are to choose from) was paying an extremely unusual and flattering visit to our little hard country, my father took him and a young Zemblan interpreter (whose sex I leave open) in a newly purchased custom-built car on a jaunt in the countryside. As usual, King Alfin traveled without a vestige of escort, and this, and his brisk driving, seemed to trouble his guest. On their way back, some twenty miles from Onhava, King Alfin decided to stop for repairs. While he tinkered with the motor, the emperor and the interpreter sought the shade of some pines by the highway, and only when King Alfin was back in Onhava, did he gradually realize from a reiteration of rather frantic questions that he had left somebody behind ("What emperor?" has remained his only memorable mot). (note to Line 71)


French for "word" and Russian for "spenfthrift," mot is Tom (a form of Thomas) in reverse. In Canto Two of his poem Shade says that his daughter twisted words:


                          She twisted words: pot, top
Spider, redips. And "powder" was "red wop."
She called you a didactic katydid.
(ll. 347-356)


According to Kinbote, it was he who observed one day that “spider” in reverse is “redips” and “T.S. Eliot,” “toilest:”


One of the examples her father gives is odd. I am quite sure it was I who one day, when we were discussing "mirror words," observed (and I recall the poet's expression of stupefaction) that "spider" in reverse is "redips," and "T.S. Eliot," "toilest." But then it is also true that Hazel Shade resembled me in certain respects. (note to Lines 347-348)


A katydid is a cricket or grasshopper. On the Grasshopper and Cricket is a sonnet by Keats.


Kuznechik-pouchitel' (as in her translation of Shade's poem Vera Nabokov renders "a didactic katydid") brings to mind Polonski's poem Kuznechik-muzykant ("The Grasshopper Musician," 1859). In Polonski's poem the grasshopper falls in love with a pretty butterfly. In Canto Two and then again at the end of his poem Shade mentions a Vanessa butterfly:


Come and be worshiped, come and be caressed,

My dark Vanessa, crimson-barred, my blest

My Admirable butterfly! Explain

How could you, in the gloam of Lilac Lane,

Have let uncouth, hysterical John Shade

Blubber your face, and ear, and shoulder blade? (ll. 269-274)


A dark Vanessa with a crimson band

Wheels in the low sun, settles on the sand

And shows its ink-blue wingtips flecked with white.

And through the flowing shade and ebbing light

A man, unheedful of the butterfly -

Some neighbor's gardener, I guess - goes by

Trundling an empty barrow up the lane. (ll. 993-999)


In his Commentary Kinbote writes:


One minute before his death, as we were crossing from his demesne to mine and had begun working up between the junipers and ornamental shrubs, a Red Admirable (see note to line 270) came dizzily whirling around us like a colored flame. Once or twice before we had already noticed the same individual, at that same time, on that same spot, where the low sun finding an aperture in the foliage splashed the brown sand with a last radiance while the evening's shade covered the rest of the path. One's eyes could not follow the rapid butterfly in the sunbeams as it flashed and vanished, and flashed again, with an almost frightening imitation of conscious play which now culminated in its setting upon my delighted friend's sleeve. It took off, and we saw it next morning sporting in an ecstasy of frivolous haste around a laurel shrub, every now and then perching on a lacquered leaf and sliding down its grooved middle like a boy down the banister on his birthday. Then the tide of the shade reached the laurels, and the magnificent, velvet-and-flame creature dissolved in it. (note to Lines 993-995)


The word "demesne" used by Kinbote occurs in Keats' sonnet On First Looking into Chapman's Homer:


Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,

And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;

Round many western islands have I been

Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.

Oft of one wide expanse had I been told

That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;

Yet did I never breathe its pure serene

Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken;

Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes

He star'd at the Pacific—and all his men

Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—

Silent, upon a peak in Darien.


Describing Aunt Maud's room, Shade mentions Chapman's Homer:


I was brought up by dear bizarre Aunt Maud,

A poet and a painter with a taste

For realistic objects interlaced

With grotesque growths and images of doom.

She lived to hear the next babe cry. Her room

We've kept intact. Its trivia create

A still life in her style: the paperweight

Of convex glass enclosing a lagoon,

The verse book open at the Index (Moon,

Moonrise, Moor, Moral), the forlorn guitar,

The human skull; and from the local Star

A curio: Red Sox Beat Yanks 5-4

On Chapman's Homer, thumbtacked to the door. (ll. 86-98)


"Doom" is "mood," "room" is "Moor" and "Star" is "rats" in reverse. "Homer" (a baseball term) comes from "home." Russian for "home," dom is Mod (the name Maud in Russian spelling) and mod (Gen. pl. of moda, "fashion") in reverse. Pushkin's epistle to Prince Gorchakov (Pushkin's schoolmate at the Lyceum) begins: Pitomets mod, bol'shogo sveta drug... ("A nursling of fashions, beau monde's friend..." 1819). In his poem Kiprenskomu ("To Kiprenski," 1827) Pushkin calls Kiprenski lyubimets mody legkokryloy (a favorite of light-winged fashion) and himself, pitomets chistykh muz (a nursling of pure muses):


Любимец моды легкокрылой,
Хоть не британец, не француз,
Ты вновь создал, волшебник милый,
Меня, питомца чистых муз, —
И я смеюся над могилой,
Ушед навек от смертных уз.

Себя как в зеркале я вижу,
Но это зеркало мне льстит.
Оно гласит, что не унижу
Пристрастья важных аонид.
Так Риму, Дрездену, Парижу
Известен впредь мой будет вид.


According to Pushkin, in Kiprenski's portrait he sees himself kak v zerkale (as in a mirror), but this mirror flatters him. In his diary (the entry of July 13, 1897) Chekhov mentions Osip Braz, the artist who worked on Chekov's portrait (for the Tret'yakov Gallery):


Меня пишет художник Браз (для Третьяковской галереи). Позирую по два раза в день.


In Canto Three of his poem Shade mentions Lang's portrait of his wife:


It was a year of Tempests: Hurricane
Lolita swept from Florida to Maine.
Mars glowed. Shahs married. Gloomy Russians spied.
Lang made your portrait. And one night I died.
(ll. 679-82)



Once again, let me draw your attention to the updated version of my previous post: “red, green & Starover Blue in Pale Fire; Gray Star in Lolita.”