Friday, 3 December 2010


by Vladimir Nabokov

I first read Лолита (Nabokov’s translation of Lolita) twentysomething years ago. It was a hardbound, poor-quality photocopy of an American edition — a notch up from “real” samizdat. It weighed at least half a kilo. I loved the book. In 1990s, I bought a then newly published Russian edition. It was a bliss.

My earlier attempts to read the novel in its original tongue were unsuccessful. Somehow I couldn’t keep struggling with Nabokov’s language beyond the first forty pages or so. The last time I gave up was about five years ago. Then, last month, the breakthrough came: I went to Fuerteventura and finally discovered the ideal conditions for reading Lolita:

What can I say? English Lolita really is as good as Russian Лолита. Now I wish I knew French enough to read all of it without Internet help (for, in contrast to Russian version, the numerous French phrases are left untranslated). It is one of the greatest love stories ever written.

You may jeer at me, and threaten to clear the court, but until I am gagged and half-throttled, I will shout my poor truth. I insist the world know how much I loved my Lolita, this Lolita, pale and polluted, and big with another’s child, but still gray-eyed, still sooty-lashed, still auburn and almond, still Carmencita, still mine; Changeons de vie, ma Carmen, allons vivre quelque part où nous ne serons jamais séparés; Ohio? The wilds of Massachusetts? No matter, even if those eyes of hers would fade to myopic fish, and her nipples swell and crack, and her lovely young velvety delicate delta be tainted and torn — even then I would go mad with tenderness at the mere sight of your dear wan face, at the mere sound of your raucous young voice, my Lolita.

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