NABOKV-L post 0011826, Sun, 11 Sep 2005 16:32:02 -0700

Re: Fwd: FAZ Lolita Lichberg
EDNOTE. NABOKV-L thanks Sandy Klein for this response.

Quoting Sandy Klein <>:

> -----Original Message-----
> From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum [mailto:] On
> Behalf Of Donald B. Johnson
> Sent: Sunday, September 11, 2005 3:48 PM
> Subject: Fwd: FAZ Lolita Lichberg
> I'd be very grateful if anyone had a link or a digitized version of
> Lichberg's Lolita--either from the original edition or from the FAZ last
> year (I have it but it is, alas, buried deep in a box).
> Best wishes,
> Leland
> Leland de la Durantaye
> Assistant Professor
> Department of English and American Language and Literature Harvard
> University Barker Center 12 Quincy Street Cambridge, MA 02138
> phone: 1 617 496 4904
> cell: 1 646 724 1322
> fax: 1 617 496 8737
> email:
> ----- End forwarded message -----
> =========================================================
> <>
> Lolita
> A tale by Heinz von Lichberg,
> translated by Carolyn Kunin
> Earlier this year, admirers of Vladimir Nabokov and scholars of modern
> literature were startled by the revelation that the Lolita of Nabokov's
> great novel was not the first fictional nymphet of that name to have
> enchanted an older lover: her namesake had appeared in an eighteen-page
> tale, also called "Lolita", by the obscure German author Heinz von
> Lichberg, published in 1916. (See the TLS, April 2, and correspondence
> that followed.) We now publish, for the first time in English, von
> Lichber's story, translated by Carolyn Kunin.
> During the course of conversation someone mentioned the name of E.T.A.
> Hoffmann and those musical tales. The Countess Beata, our young hostess,
> put down the orange she was about to peel and said to the young poet
> "Would you believe it - his stories -- and I only seldom read them --
> can keep me awake all night long? My rational mind tells me it is
> fantasy, and yet . . ."
> "Perhaps it is not mere fantasy, my dear countess."
> The diplomat gave a good natured chuckle "You don't think such
> outlandish things actually happened to Hoffmann, do you?"
> "But that is exactly what I do think," countered the poet. "They did
> happen to him. Of course I don't mean that he saw them with his own
> eyes. But because he was a poet, he experienced everything that he wrote
> psychically. Perhaps I should say that he only wrote of things that he
> had encountered in his soul. In fact I would say that this is what
> differentiates the poet from the writer. The poet's soul experiences the
> fantastic as its reality."
> Silence fell over the beautiful countess's little empire style room.
> "You are completely right," said the professor, a sensitive man of
> youthful appearance. "Will you allow me to tell you a story that I have
> carried with me for many years? To this day I am not certain if it
> actually happened to me or if I dreamed it. It won't take long."
> "Please do tell us," said our hostess.
> The professor began his tale:
> "Toward the end of the last century, more than twenty years ago, I was
> studying in a very old town in southern Germany. I lived, as it pleased
> me, in a narrow street full of age-old houses. Not far from my rooms was
> a tavern -- one of the oddest I have ever seen. I went there often in
> late autumn afternoons when I could take a break from my work between
> daytime and nightfall.
> "There was only one room, rather rickety with rafters sunk in gloom.
> Near the window facing the street stood two well scoured tables and a
> few rough-hewn chairs. Back in a dark corner where the tile stove stood
> there was a third little table and two remarkably colorful chintz
> armchairs. Over one of them was draped a black silk mantilla, the kind
> women wear in Spain on holy days. I never saw any other customers there
> except for myself & I still sometimes wonder if it really was a
> commercial establishment. Sometimes upon the stroke of seven the door
> would be locked and the shutters closed. I never asked about this, but
> my curiosity had already fastened itself on the proprietors of this odd
> establishment.
> "Their names were Aloys and Anton Walzer and they gave an impression of
> great age. They were unusually tall and lanky. They were both bald but
> sported full scraggly reddish-grey beards. I never saw them wear
> anything but yellow britches and black jackets that hung loosely on
> them. They must have been twins for it was impossible to tell them
> apart, and it took quite awhile before I was able to distinguish Anton's
> slightly deeper voice.
> "As soon as I entered the tavern a glass of marvelous sweet spanish wine
> would be placed on the table near the stove for me with a friendly grin.
> Aloys would take the easy chair next to me while Anton would stand
> leaning with his back to the window. They puffed away on their aromatic
> pipes, the kind you see in old Flemish pictures. Somehow I got the
> feeling that they were waiting for something.
> "I would almost say that the impression they made on me was grotesque,
> but that wouldn't be quite the right word because the grotesque always
> has something of the comic about it. But the impression made on me by
> the Walzer brothers was inexpressibly sad and troubled -- almost tragic.
> There was no indication of a feminine presence in the place and I
> certainly never saw a woman there.
> "As winter came on with its early dusks and long nights, I found my
> visits to the smoky tavern becoming almost a daily necessity. As the
> proprietors came to know me better, now and then they would talk a
> little with me. But they seemed to have lost their sense of time and
> always spoke of things that happened in times long past and their voices
> made the same dry, rattling sound.
> "I told them of my travels and whenever I mentioned southern climes, a
> disturbing leery look would come into their eyes that were usually so
> sorrowful and expectant. They seemed almost to be living in a kind of
> memory. I could never leave without having the feeling that something
> dreadful was about to happen as soon as I left, but I forced myself to
> laugh at such thoughts.
> "One evening I was passing by the place rather late and from behind the
> shuttered windows there came such a lovely sound of violin music that I
> stood there in the street entranced. The next day when I asked the
> brothers about it, they only smiled and nodded.
> "Several weeks passed, and again I was passing by the tavern late at
> night, even later than the last time. From behind the shutters I heard a
> desolate cry and then such an extremity of quarreling and cursing that I
> was frightened out of my wits. There could be no doubt, the shouts that
> came from within the old tavern were not those of the two weak old men
> that I knew -- these voices were deep, young and bellowing with rage. It
> sounded like two strong young men who were having a dreadful row. The
> shouts became even louder until they reached a pitch of frenzy
> punctuated by the blows of a fist crashing on a table.
> "Then I heard the silvery bright laugh of a woman's voice, and
> immediately the enraged voices swelled into an insane bawling. I stood
> frozen in my tracks. It never occurred to me to open the door and see
> what was going on.
> "The woman's voice screamed, just a single cry, but in such fearful
> anguish, that I have never been able to forget it. Then everything was
> still.
> "The next day when I went into the tavern, Anton placed my glass of wine
> on the table with his usual friendly grin, and everything was so
> unchanged that I began to wonder if the whole episode hadn't been a
> dream, and I was too ashamed to ask.
> "One afternoon towards the end of Winter I told the brothers that I
> wouldn't be coming anymore as I was setting out for Spain on the
> following day.
> "This news had a strange effect on Anton and Aloys, and their hard
> weathered faces blanched for a moment and two pairs of eyes sought the
> floor. They went out and I could hear them whispering together.
> "After a while Anton returned and asked me in some excitement if by
> chance I would be going to Alicante and when I said yes, he turned and
> almost skipped back to his brother. Later they both returned, behaving
> as if nothing had happened.
> "While I was packing I forgot about the brothers, but that night I had a
> confused and complicated dream that had something to do with a crooked
> little salmon-colored house in a derelict street in the harbor of
> Alicante.
> "On my way to the train station the next day, I was surprised to see
> that in bright daylight Anton and Aloys had their shutters closed up
> tight.
> "During the trip I soon forgot all about my studies and little
> adventures in southern Germany. Traveling makes it easy to forget.
> "I spent several days in Paris to visit a few friends and see the
> Louvre. One evening I returned tired from a cabaret in the Latin
> Quarter, where I went to hear a remarkable poet, who one of my friends
> had heard of. He turned out to be an ancient blind bard who sang
> beautifully with a simple, sorrowful voice. He had a lovely daughter who
> accompanied him skillfully on the violin.
> "Later she played a solo piece, and I immediately recognized the melody
> as the one that I had heard coming from the Walzer brothers' house. I
> later determined it was a gavotte by Lully, from the time of Louis XIV.
> "Some days later I traveled on toward Lisbon and in early February I
> passed through Madrid on my way to Alicante.
> "I have always had a weak spot in my heart for the South in general, and
> for Spain first and foremost. You feel almost powerful there, and every
> experience seems heightened. The sun makes life hot and unfettered. The
> people, like their wine, are strong, fiery and sweet, but excitable and
> dangerous when aroused. Then, too, I believed that the Southerners had a
> little of Don Quixote in their blood.
> "Actually, I didn't have anything in particular to do in Alicante, but I
> passed several of those inexpressibly sweet nights there, when the moon
> rises over the castle of Santa Barbara and throws the harbor into an
> uncanny chiaroscura. On such nights the German heart beats with a
> lyrical romanticism.
> "My first sight of the town brought memories of the Walzer brothers and
> their strange establishment flooding back to me. I know it might be
> hindsight or imagination, but it does seem to me that my mule turned
> very unwillingly at the Algorfe Palace as I drove down toward the
> harbor. In one of the old streets where mostly sailors live I found the
> place I sought.
> "Severo Ancosta's inn was a crooked little building with large
> balconies, stuck in between other similar establishments. The innkeeper,
> friendly and chatty, gave me a room with a wonderful view of the sea,
> and I looked forward to enjoying a week of undisturbed beauty. That is
> until the next day when I saw Severo's daughter, Lolita.
> "By our northern standards she was terribly young, with veiled southern
> eyes and hair of an unusual reddish gold. Her body was boyishly slim and
> supple and her voice was full and dark. But there was something more
> than her beauty that attracted me -- there was a strange mystery about
> her that troubled me often on those moonlit nights.
> "Sometimes when she came into my room to tidy up, she would pause in her
> work, her red laughing smile compressed into a narrow line, and she
> would stare with fear into the sunlight. Her bearing was that of a great
> tragedienne's Iphigenia. I would take the child in my arms and feel an
> imperative need to protect her from some unknown danger.
> "There were days when Lolita's big shy eyes regarded me with an unspoken
> question, and there were evenings when I saw her break into sudden
> uncontrollable sobs.
> "I had ceased to think of travelling on. I was entranced by the South --
> and Lolita.
> "Golden hot days and silvery melancholy nights.
> "And then, one time, the unforgettable reality and dreamlike unreality
> as Lolita sat on my balcony, and sang softly, as she often did. But this
> time she came to me with halting steps on the landing, the guitar
> discarded precipitously on the floor. And while her eyes sought out the
> image of the flickering moon in the water, like a pleading child she
> flung her trembling little arms around my neck, leaned her head on my
> chest, and began sobbing. There were tears in her eyes, but her sweet
> mouth was laughing.
> "Then the miracle happened. 'You are so strong,' she whispered.
> "Days and nights came and went . . . my beauty kept her secret in a song
> of imperturbable serenity.
> "The days turned into weeks and I realized that it was time to continue
> my travels. Not that any duty called me, but Lolita's immense and
> dangerous love had begun to frighten me. When I told her this she gave
> me an indescribable look and nodded silently. Suddenly she seized my
> hand and bit me as hard as she could. Twenty-five years have not erased
> the marks of love she left on my hand.
> "By the time I was able to speak Lolita had disappeared into the house.
> I only saw her one more time.
> "That evening I spoke seriously with Severo about his daughter. 'Come,
> sir,' he said, 'I have something to show you that will explain
> everything.' He lead me into a room that was separated from my own by a
> door. I stood in amazement.
> "In that plain room stood only a small table and three armchairs. But
> they were the same, or nearly the same, as the chairs in the Walzer
> brothers' tavern. And I realized instantly that it had been Severo
> Ancosta's house that I had dreamed of on the eve of my trip.
> "There was a drawing of Lolita on the wall, which was so perfect that I
> went up to examine it more closely.
> " 'You think that's a picture of Lolita,' laughed Severo, 'but that is
> Lola, the grandmother of Lolita's great-grandmother. It's a hundred
> years since she was strangled during a fight between her two lovers.'
> "We sat down and Severo in his genial manner told this story. He told me
> of Lola, who was the most beautiful woman of her time in the town, so
> beautiful that men died for love of her. Shortly after giving birth to a
> daughter, she was murdered by two of her lovers, whom she had driven to
> madness.
> " 'And since that time a curse lies on the family. The women all give
> birth to a daughter, and winthin weeks of giving birth, they always go
> mad. And they were all beautiful -- as beautiful as Lolita.'
> " 'My wife died that way,' he whispered, serious now, 'and my daughter
> will die the same way.'
> "I could hardly think of anything to say to comfort him, as I myself was
> overcome with fear for my little Lolita.
> "That evening when I went to my room I found a small red flower that I
> could not identify on my pillow. Lolita's farewell present, I thought
> and picked it up. Only then did I see that the flower was white, the red
> was Lolita's blood. Such was her love.
> "That night I couldn't sleep. A thousand dreams pursued me. Then
> suddenly, it must have been close to midnight, I saw something
> frightful. The door to the next room was open, and sitting at the table
> in the middle of the room were three people. To the right and left were
> two strong young blond fellows and between them sat Lolita. No, probably
> not Lolita but Lola -- or maybe it really was Lolita?
> "On the table were glasses of dark red wine. The girl laughed out loud,
> uninhibitedly, and there was an insolence around her mouth. The two men
> picked up violins and began to play. I felt the blood in my veins pulse
> faster -- I recognized the melody -- the gavotte from the days of the
> Sun King. As the tune ended, the woman drank down her glass to the
> bottom and let out another bright silvery laugh.
> "The young man who sat facing me lay down his violin on the table. 'Now,
> tell us, which of us will you choose?'
> "She laughed, 'the handsomest -- but you are both so handsome. You have
> a cold foreign beauty that we are not used to here.'
> "Then the other one shouted even louder, 'Him or me, tell us, woman, or
> by God . . .'
> " 'You both love me,' she said . 'If your love is so great, then fight
> for me and I will ask the blessed Virgin to send me a sign to show which
> of you loves me most. Are you willing?'
> " 'Yes,' agreed the men and glared at each other.
> " 'I will love the one who is strongest.'
> " 'So they took off their jackets and their muscles swelled. But they
> were realized they were equally strong.
> " 'I will love whoever is tallest.' Their eyes flashed.
> "And the men seemed to grow taller and taller, their necks lengthened
> and thickened, and their sleeves burst right down to the elbows. Their
> faces became so ugly and distorted, that I feared their bones would
> break. But not by so much as a hair was one larger than the other.
> "Their fists came crashing down onto the table, and the violins jumped
> and then came a godforsaken cursing.
> " 'I will love the eldest.'
> "The hair fell from their heads, deep furrows spread across their faces,
> their hands trembled with weakness and their knees shook as they tried
> with great fatigue to raise themselves to their full height. Their
> poisonous glances became feeble and the roaring cries of rage turned to
> croaking.
> " 'By God, woman,' howled one of them, 'speak once more or you will go
> to hell, you and your thrice-accursed beauty.'
> "She fell forward laughing onto the table, and cried with streaming
> eyes, 'I will love, yes, I will love the one who has the longest and
> ugliest beard!'
> "Long red hair shot out of the men's faces, and they emitted insane
> animal cries of rage and despair. With upraised fists they faced each
> other. Then the woman tried to run away.
> 'But in a moment the two of them fell on her and she was strangled
> between their long, bony fingers.
> "I was unable to move a muscle, my spine turned to ice and I forced my
> eyes shut. When I opened them again I saw that the two men in the next
> room, gazing down on the result of their rage were Anton and Aloys
> Walzer. I fainted dead away.
> "When I came to the sun was already streaming into my room, and the door
> to the next room was shut. I rushed to opened it and found everything
> just as it had been before. But I remember thinking that the fine layer
> of dust I had seen before on the furniture was gone. And I could smell
> the faintest hint of wine in the air.
> "A few hours later I went outside into the street and found Severo pale
> and in distress coming toward me. There were tears in his eyes.
> " 'Lolita died last night,' he said softly.
> "I don't know how to explain what those words did to me, but if I could
> it would be a sacrilege to speak of it. My beloved little Lolita lay in
> her narrow bed, her eyes wide open. Her tears had collected on her lower
> lip and her fragrant blond hair lay in confusion.
> "I don't know the manner of her death. In my fathomless dismay I forgot
> to ask. There was a little cut on the brown left arm -- but that surely
> did not kill her. She did that to turn a white flower red -- for me.
> "I shut her tender eyes and hid my head in her cool hand -- I don't know
> for how long.
> "Eventually Severo came in and reminded me that the steamship that was
> to take me to Marseilles would be leaving in an hour. So I left.
> "When the ship was far from shore I recognized the outline of Santa
> Barbara, and it occurred to me that this angular castle could now be
> looking down on a small beloved body being laid in the earth. My heart
> had never felt such a yearning and I beseeched the towers 'Send her my
> love, send her my love before she is gone -- and forever, forever.'
> "But I took Lolita's soul with me.
> "Some years later I returned to the old south German town. In the
> Walzer's old tavern, there now lived an ugly woman who dealt in seed. I
> asked after the brothers and found out that they were both found dead in
> their easychairs by the stove on the morning that followed Lolita's
> death. They were smiling."
> The professor, whose gaze blindly strayed on his dish as he spoke,
> looked up. The Countess Beata opened her eyes. "You are a poet,'" she
> said and the bracelet on her delicate wrist clinked as she gave him her
> hand.