ENC: [NABOKV-L] The name of L*lita
Jansy Mello: Why do Nabokovians need to believe that:
(a) VN spoke almost no German and had never read von Lichberg’s story; or
(b) VN suffered from cryptomnesia; or
(c) VN practiced “higher cribbing” and “consciously borrowed and quoted” from von Lichberg’s “Lolita”?*
As I inquired a few postings ago, why does it seem so difficult to imagine that VN had actually read Von Lichberg’s book - among all the other suggestive novels and poems related to the name “Lolita”? That, instead of finding in it a source of inspiration, he felt robbed of his tactics related to a “personal myth” (M. Couturier on the theme of “nymphettes”), by a minor writer whose name he didn’t even deign to mention to avoid giving him an importance he didn’t seem to deserve? That he might be subtly acknowledging Lolita’s “ancestrality” by way of a wordplay using German “Lolitchen” and “Lottelita”, and choosing Germanic surnames for Lolita’s maternal grandmother (Becker) and her married name (Schiller)?
The hypotheses described above were not discussed or acknowledged at the VN-L after I presented them and, since I drowned them under loads of citations, I’m submitting them again for your appraisal since, after the idea occurred to me, I felt a curious sense of harmony and developed a special fondness for it.
*The Ecstasy of Influence - A plagiarism by (2007) “Consider this tale: a cultivated man of middle age looks back on the story of an amour fou, one beginning when, traveling abroad, he takes a room as a lodger. The moment he sees the daughter of the house, he is lost. She is a preteen, whose charms instantly enslave him. Heedless of her age, he becomes intimate with her. In the end she dies, and the narrator — marked by her forever — remains alone. The name of the girl supplies the title of the story: Lolita. /The author of the story I’ve described, Heinz von Lichberg, published his tale of Lolita in 1916, forty years before Vladimir Nabokov’s novel. Lichberg later became a prominent journalist in the Nazi era, and his youthful works faded from view. Did Nabokov, who remained in Berlin until 1937, adopt Lichberg’s tale consciously? Or did the earlier tale exist for Nabokov as a hidden, unacknowledged memory? The history of literature is not without examples of this phenomenon, called cryptomnesia. Another hypothesis is that Nabokov, knowing Lichberg’s tale perfectly well, had set himself to that art of quotation that Thomas Mann, himself a master of it, called “higher cribbing.” Literature has always been a crucible in which familiar themes are continually recast. Little of what we admire in Nabokov’s Lolita is to be found in its predecessor; the former is in no way deducible from the latter. Still: did Nabokov consciously borrow and quote?” http://harpers.org/archive/2007/02/the-ecstasy-of-influence/
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