Vladimir Nabokov

Dragunoiu, Dana. The Afterlives of Odette and Albertine in Lolita’s Final Chapters. 2020

Bibliographic title
The Afterlives of Odette and Albertine in Lolita’s Final Chapters
Periodical or collection
Comparative Literature
Periodical issue
v. 72, no. 3
Publication year
The article contributes to the long-standing debate about Lolita’s final nine chapters by arguing for a much tighter connection than previously acknowledged between Nabokov’s most famous novel and Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu. Turning on the claim that Dolly’s alleged letter from Coalmont has a precedent in the Recherche, the essay proposes that Humbert fabricates the letter from Dolly for similar reasons that Proust’s Narrator makes himself believe that a telegram he receives from Gilberte is a missive from Albertine. The phantom letter in Lolita and the garbled telegram in the Recherche are psychologically therapeutic exercises in misreading and gestures toward paths not taken. But in Nabokov’s case, it is also an experiment in writing the kind of literary freedom he theorized in his 1941 lecture on drama titled “The Tragedy of Tragedy.” The article argues that Dolly’s potential vanishing act pays homage to the mercurial personalities that Nabokov encountered in Proust’s novel and the unconventional literary structures he admired in the works of Pushkin and Chekhov.