Lolita’s Lithophantic eternities


In addition to exotic vocabulary ityems VN was very fond of optical delusions (cf the “non-non  (Russ. netki)  of the undistorting mirrors  in Invitations to a Beheading among many others. These optical tricks that play with dimensionality are part and parcel of VN’s “otherworld” theme. The following example is from Lolita, part II, ch. 31.                                 Don Johnson


At this solitary stop for refreshments between Coalmont and Ramsdale (between innocent Dolly Schiller and jovial Uncle Ivor), I reviewed my case. With the utmost simplicity and clarity I now saw  myself and my love. Previous  attempts seemed out of focus in comparison. A couple of years before, under the guidance of an intelligent French-speaking confessor,  to whom, in a moment of metaphysical curiosity, I had turned over a Protestant's drab atheism for an old-fashioned popish cure, I had hoped to deduce from my sense of sin the existence of a Supreme Being. On those frosty mornings in rime-laced Quebec, the good priest worked on me with the finest tenderness and understanding. I am infinitely obliged to him and the great Institution he represented. Alas, I was unable to transcend the simple human fact that whatever spiritual solace I might find, whatever lithophanic eternities might be provided for me, nothing could make my Lolita forget the foul lust I had inflicted upon her.


The Blair Museum of Lithophanes

German lithophane of the Fountain in the Park of Versailles mounted in a blue and red glass frame. When the ambient light is extinguished and the lithophane is back-lit, a beautiful, three-dimensional picture appears in incredible depth and detail. When you see the actual lithophane at the Blair Museum, you will see some additional lithophane magic which cannot be seen in a two dimensional photograph. Due to the three dimensionality of lithophanes, the perspective will change as you walk past the lithophane. The avenue behind the fountain actually appears to move.

The image just below is lighted from the viewers’ position.


. Only when the image is back-lit, does the second version become visible. (See below.)  Note that in this two-dimensional version the three-dimensional is,alas, lost.




Search the Nabokv-L archive with Google

Contact the Editors

All private editorial communications, without exception, are read by both co-editors.

Visit Zembla

View Nabokv-L Policies