NABOKV-L post 0026576, Wed, 28 Oct 2015 05:48:24 +0000

Re: The name of L*lita
Dear all,

I agree wholeheartedly with Maurice, and especially his closing remark, his surprise at the attention Maar’s claims have earned.

VN did not know German well enough (see Dieter Zimmer’s observation on a small sample of Nabokov’s written German, in Letters to Véra, p. 705 in the UK edition, 703 in the US edition being published next week, and much corrected from the UK edition) to be tempted to read anything but German Lepidoptera articles in his youth. He knew French very well indeed, and Larbaud’s “Lolita est une petite fille; Lola est en âge de se marier; Dolores a trente ans; Doña Dolores a soixante ans” is far closer to Nabokov than anything in Lichberg, even in Maar’s strained parallels. Humbert was conceived of as French from the first, from the time when Lolita was to be called Juanita Dark (in allusion to France’s most famous female, whom VN thought should be referred to correctly as Joaneta Darc); Humbert’s Anglo-French background was essential, in many ways, to his story, and Nabokov even had to be persuaded by his first publisher, a Frenchman, to cut many of the preening French phrases with which Humbert peppered his English narrative.

Nabokov clearly drew on many sources for his work, including Lolita, but why identify as a source for Lolita a dull and soon forgotten story in a language he did not read, when there are much more obvious sources, including in his own earlier work?

Brian Boyd

On 28/10/2015, at 4:04 pm, NABOKV-L, English <nabokv-l@HOLYCROSS.EDU<mailto:nabokv-l@HOLYCROSS.EDU>> wrote:

Maurice Couturier writes:

Dear List,

Jansy says that "it is highly possible that VN had read Lichberg’s
'Lolita'”. Maybe, but Nabokov had plenty of possible sources for the
name; he himself mentioned that it occurs in "Monte Cristo". In a
previous mail, I gave a list of books published in France before 1955
with "Lolita" in their titles, one Henri Houssaye's "Lolita" (1945)
telling a story close to that of "Transparent Things", but Brian says
that Nabokov mentioned it much later in his diary. I have discovered yet
another book with a character named Lolita, Pierre L'Hermite's "Comment
j'ai tué mon enfant" (a good subtitle for Nabokov's novel, by the way).
Lichberg's story has a great deal less in common with VN's "Lolita" than
many of the books I have just mentioned. And of course, there is Valéry
Larbaud's long deconstruction of the name Lolita dated 1927. The
publicity given to Maar's book has always amazed me.

Maurice Couturier

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
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