South Coast Today
What I'm reading, with Michelle Trojano and Stephanie Lentz
Michelle Trojano, right, just completed her summer reading with the Nabokov classic, “Lolita,” while fellow UMass Dartmouth student Stephanie Lentz is well into the textbooks.

NAME: Michelle Trojano and Stephanie Lentz

AGE: 19

OCCUPATION: UMass Dartmouth students

WHAT I'M READING: "Lolita," by Vladimir Nabokov (American publication: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1958); textbooks

It's that time of year when college students have to finish up their summer beach novels and start hitting the textbooks.

While Stephanie's already reading a book for history class, Michelle just finished up her summer reading with Nabokov's classic, "Lolita."

"It was good, but disturbing," Michelle said of the infamous tale of pedophile Humbert Humbert.

The novel, first published in 1955, is famous for both Nabokov's writing style and its taboo subject: Humbert's sexual obsession with a young girl.

A staple in college English courses for decades now, professors say the book is as much about Humbert's love for 12-year-old Dolores Haze (aka "Lolita") as it is about Nabokov's love of the English language.

The Russian native — and trilingual author — wrote and published his novel in English in 1955; it was not translated to Russian until 1967.

Although its subject matter caused publishing problems — Nabokov couldn't find an American publisher initially; British reviews called it "filthy," and it was banned in France for two years — it's since earned a reputation as a classic.

In fact, "Lolita" is now so well-known that the name itself widely refers to a "nymphet" — a term coined by Nabokov — meaning a sexually precocious young girl.

The story is told as a prison memoir by Humbert, who loads the text with word play, wit, double entendres, puns and anagrams.

The novel has been adapted to film twice, once in 1962 by Stanley Kubrick starring James Mason as Humbert Humbert, and again in 1997 by Adrian Lyne, starring Jeremy Irons.

Nabokov, who died in 1977, told Life magazine in 1964:

"I would say that of all my books, 'Lolita' has left me with the most pleasurable afterglow — perhaps because it is the purest of all ... (but) I am probably responsible for the odd fact that people don't seem to name their daughters Lolita anymore."

The opening paragraph alone shows Nabokov's impressive use of language:

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta."

— Lauren Daley, Standard-Times staff writer,


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