Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003414, Sat, 10 Oct 1998 19:32:27 -0700

DN's Legal Challenge (fwd)
`Lolita' Book Draws Legal Challenge


NEW YORK (AP) -- Sequels to ``Gone With the Wind'' and ``Casablanca'' have
come off without a catch -- but a retold ``Lolita'' is fanning a hot legal

The son of novelist Vladimir Nabokov has sued an Italian woman for parodying
the story of a professor sexually obsessed with a 12-year-old girl -- from the
child's point of view.

``Lo's Diary'' by Pia Pera, according to a lawsuit seeking to ban its U.S.
publication, is ``a ripoff.''

Not quite, says attorney Leon Friedman, who represents New York publisher
Farrar, Straus & Giroux. ``It's funny, it's a parody. It adds something new,
with different characters,'' he said Saturday.

The original narrator, Professor Humbert Humbert, becomes Humbert Guibert and
he doesn't kill Clare, the evil playwright who lures away Lolita; and Clare, a
man in the original, returns as Filthy Sue.

Dolores Haze, aka Lolita, is now Dolores Maze. And she's a blatant little
seductress with come-hither techniques: ``Swing a foot back and forth, flutter
your eyelids, fan yourself, snap your fingers to the music, blow a bubble then
suck the gum slowly back into your mouth.''

Unlike Nabokov's 1955 book, the professor and ``Lo'' don't die. ``They all
stick around, and she gets married and has a child and she's happy,'' Friedman

The lawsuit accusing Ms. Pera and her publisher of copyright and trademark
infringement was filed Thursday in federal court in New York by Nabokov's
estate, represented by his son, Dmitri Nabokov, a race car driver who lives in
Florida. The lawsuit also names Italian and British publishers of the book,
published in Italy in 1995.

The book is ``inferior and amateurish merchandise'' that tarnishes the
reputation of a work that has sold about 50 million copies in more than 20
languages, according to court documents.

Friedman maintains the 310-page English language manuscript falls within
``fair use'' standards set by the U.S. Supreme Court to protect intellectual
property through copyright; the French copyright on ``Lolita'' runs out in

``We don't take any language from `Lolita,' and we transformed the story,''
said Friedman.

Besides, the 42-year-old author said in a statement from her home in the
Tuscan hills, it was Nabokov himself who inspired her to probe the provocative
nymphet's mind for her first novel.

In ``Lolita,'' the Russian-born novelist who died in 1977 had his narrator,
Humbert Humbert, admit: ``I simply did not know a thing about my darling's
mind.'' And, he wished, ``Oh, that I were a lady writer who could have her
pose naked in a naked light.''

Enter an Italian lady who shed her own light on Lolita. ``All I did,'' she
said, ``was to accept Nabokov's challenge, his implied invitation to a
literary tennis match.''

AP-NY-10-10-98 2039EDT