Nabokov’s America ...
The New Yorker
Complete article at: http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/nabokovs-america?mbid=nl_070115_Daily&CNDID=25828463&mbid=nl_070115_Daily&CNDID=25828463&spMailingID=7873385&spUserID=MzYyMjA2NzQ0NTYS1&spJobID=720101293&spReportId=NzIwMTAxMjkzS0
JUNE 30, 2015
BY JOHN COLAPINTO
On February 3, 1954, Vladimir Nabokov wrote to James Laughlin, the founder of New Directions, “Would you be interested in publishing a timebomb that I have just finished putting together? It is a novel of 459 typewritten pages.” The novel was “Lolita,” the tale of a middle-aged pedophile’s sexual exploitation of a twelve-year-old girl, and Nabokov’s description proved accurate. The book would not find an American publisher for almost five years, after threats of banning the book and imprisoning its author and publisher had abated. When “Lolita” finally did appear in America, in November, 1958, it indeed detonated like a time-delayed explosive: it drew an outraged review by the lead critic of the Times, Orville Prescott, who called it “repulsive …highbrow pornography,” and became an instant best-seller, breaking the record for one-week sales set by “Gone with the Wind.” More importantly, it secured for Nabokov, over time, a reputation as a master of English prose second only to Joyce.
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As in a fairy tale, the great commercial success of that novel restored to Nabokov, at nearly the age of sixty, the fortune he’d lost in his teens. And that same success led, ultimately, to the author’s permanent removal from America. In 1961, he and Vera went to live in the Montreux Palace Hotel on the shore of Lake Geneva, in Switzerland, where Nabokov devoted himself full time to writing. He told interviewers that he and Vera fully intended to return to America. Owing to the encroachments of age, and the pull of family (Dmitri lived in nearby Italy), they never did. But until his death in 1977, at the age of seventy-eight, Nabokov continued to refer to himself as an American writer.
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