Nabokov, Vladimir: Lolita
(researched by Tara Ellicott)

Assignment 1: Bibliographical Description

1 First edition publication information (publisher, place, date, etc.)

Publisher: The Olympia Press Place: 8, Rue de Nesle, Paris 6e Date: 1955

2 First edition published in cloth, paper, or both? If both, simultaneous or staggered?

The first edition that I was able to use was published in cloth.

3 JPEG image of cover art from first edition, if available

4 Pagination

The novel was printed as 2 volumes in 1. Pagination: 5 leaves, pp. i-vi 7-10 volume 1: 94 leaves, pp. i-xii 13-188 volume 2: 112 leaves, pp. i-viii 9-223

5 Edited or Introduced? If so, by whom?


6 Illustrated? If so, by whom?


7 JPEG image of sample illustration, if available

8 General physical appearance of book (Is the physical presentation of the text attractive? Is the typography readable? Is the book well printed?)

The first edition of "Lolita" that I used was in good shape. The print type was large and easily readable. The book was also well-printed in that the typography is clear.

9 JPEG image of sample chapter page, if available

10 Paper (Assess the original quality of the paper used for the book. Is the paper in the copy or copies you examined holding up physically over time?)

The paper
in the copy that I examined was thick, quality, non-translucent paper. Though the paper was yellowed no pages were cracked as happens in many of the books that have been kept in Alderman Library for a long period of time.

11 Description of binding(s)

The binding of the book was s
titched together. The book was divided into two volumes, each of which had its own paper cover. The two volumes were then stitched together and put in a hardcover.

12 Transcription of title page

Vladimir Nabokov / LOLITA / THE OLYMPIA PRESS / 8, Rue de Nesle, Paris 6e

13 JPEG image of title page, if available

14 Manuscript Holdings

The Librar
y of Congress

15 Other (typograpical information from title page, etc.)

Assignment 2: Publication and Performance History

1 Did the original publisher issue the book in more than one edition? If so, briefly describe distinguishing features of each (illustrations, cover art, typography, etc.); if not, enter N/A


2 JPEG image of cover art from one subsequent edition, if available

3 JPEG image of sample illustration from one subsequent edition, if available

4 How many printings or impressions of the first edition?

In the first printing, by Olympia, there were 5,000 impressions. The second printing added an introduction detailing the books critical and legal h
istory following its first publication. There was also a third printing

5 Editions from other publishers? If so, list their dates and publishers; if not, enter N/A

Other American publishings: Putnam, 1958 (hardcover). Crest, 1959 (paperback). New York, Berkley, 1977. New York, Vintage International, 1989. G.K. Hall & Co, 1997.

6 Last date in print?

This novel is still in print in 1998.

7 Total copies sold? (source and date of information?)

1958: 153,000 copies sold 1959: over 100,000 copies sold between 1958 and 1965 3,633,467 copies sold (recent figures pending)

8 Sales figures by year? (source and date of information?)


9 Advertising copy (transcribe significant excerpts, briefly identify where ads were placed)

New York Times Book Review (August 24, 1958) G.P. PUTNAM'S SONS / announce with pride the American publication of / one of the most widely dicussed novels of our time / LOLITA / by the author of Pnin / VLADIMIR NABOKOV / A cause celebre in France, the object of a cutting feud in England, the subjec
t of a score / of articles in American literary reviews during the past few years, Lolita is now being / translated into six languages. This amazing American novel, which has made the world / gasp and the world's critics cheer, is at last published, comp
lete and unabridged, in / the United States, where it was written.

10 JPEG image of sample advertisement, if available

11 Other promotion

12 Performances in other media? If so, list media, date, title, production information; if not, enter N/A

film version, 1962, produced by James B. Harris, directed by Stanley Kubrick, screenplay by Vladimir Nabokov film version, 1997, produced by Guild and Pathe, directed by Adrian Lyne,written by Vladimir Nabokov and Stephen Schiff

13 Translations? If translated, give standard bibliographic information for each translation. If none, enter N/A

The novel was translated into twenty-five different languages. The ones that I found publishing information on are the following. German, Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1959 Italian, Arnold Mondadori Editore, 1961 Russian, Moskva: Izvestiia, 1989

14 Serialization? If serialized, give standard bibliographic information for serial publication. If none, enter N/A


15 Sequels/Prequels? Give standard bibliographic information for each. If none, enter N/A

There were no sequels or prequels. However, in 1957 an excerpt did appear in The Anchor Review in America. In 1974 the book "Lolita: A Screenplay" was published.

Assignment 3: Biographical Sketch of the Author

1 Paste your biographical sketch here (maximum 500 words)

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The rich and aristocratic Nabokovs were a family with a long tradition of high culture and public service. Nabakov's grandfather was Minister of Justice under two tsars and implemented the court reforms while his father was a distinguished jurist, a foe of anti-Semitism, a journalist and scholar, a leader of the Kadets, and a member of the Duma. In 1916, at the age of 17, Nabokov privately published his first book of poetry called "Stikhi" in St. Petersburg. In 1919 Nabokov's father took his family into exile. In Berlin Nabokov's father became editor of the Russian newspaper Rul' where many of Vladimir Nabokov's first prose works and translations appear. In 1922 Nabokov's father was fatally shot during an assassination attempt on the politician Miliukov by right-wing monarchists. Nabokov attended Trinity College in Cambridge, England and in 1922 received an honors degree in Slavic and Romance Languages. In 1925 he married Vera Slonim in Berlin. For the next eighteen years he lived in Germany and France, and wrote in Russian. In 1940 Nabokov moved with his wife Vera and son Dmitri to the United States where Nabokov began to write in English. He lectured on Russian literature at Wellesley and Cornell and in 1958 the best-seller status of Lolita enabled him to resign from this position and devote himself to his writing. He moved to Switzerland to be closer to his son Dmitri. Dmitri is a skilled translator who successfully translated all of Nabokov's Russian stories into English. On July 2, 1977 Nabokov died in Lausanne, Switzerland. He is buried in Clarens,
beneath a tombstone that reads "Vladimir Nabokov, ecrivain". His publications in Russian include "Romain Roland", "Colas Breugnon", "Grozd'", "Gornii put'", "Skital'sy", "Rul' of Dedushka", "Rul' of Agasfer", "Tragediia Gospodina Morna", "Rul of Polyus", "Draka", "Britva", "Masken'ka", "Chelovek iz SSSR", "Korol', dama, valet", "Zashchita Luzhina", :"Vozvrashchenie Chorba", "Sogliadatai", "Podvig", "Kamera obskura", "Dar", "Otchaianie", "Priglashenie", "Podarok", "Sobytia", "Izobretenie Wal'sa", "Priglashenie na kazn'", and "Volshebnik". In English his publications include "The Real Life of Sebastian Knight", "Solus Rex", "Nikolai", "Three Russian Poets", "Bend Sinister", "Nine Stories", "Conclusive Evidence", "Vesna v Fial'te", "Pnin", "Nabokov's Dozen", "Poems", "The Song of Igor's Campaign", "Pale Fire", "Speak, Memory", "Ada", "Poems and Problems", "Transparent Things", "A Russian Beauty and Other Stories", "Lolita: A Screenplay", "Look at the Harlequins", "Tyrants Destroyed and Other Stories", and "Details of a Sunset and Other Stories".

Assignment 4: Reception History

1 Paste contemporary reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

When "Lolita" was written in 1955 it was rejected by a string of publishers in America because of its controversial content and was subsequently published in France. It was accused by many as being pornographic a
nd distasteful and was banned almost everywhere besides France. It was finally published in America in 1958 by G.P. Putnam when it was backed up by critical opinion vouching for its artistic integrity. "Lolita" subsequently became a best-seller and a lite
rary landmark. Reactions to this book have been extremely strong: people are usually extremely morally opposed to the content or herald its literary aesthetic value. In an article printed in the Atlantic Monthly in September 1958 Charles Rolo states that
Lolita "blazes with a perversity of a most original kind". He describes it as "one of the funniest serious novels I have ever read" which highlights the "vulgarity and the hypocritical conventions that pervade the human comedy". In a New York Times article printed on August 17, 1958 Elizabeth Janeway states that Lolita does an extremely good job of standing up to accusations of being pornographic, shocking and immoral. She states that the book is technically brilliant as well as
humorous. However, the main character Humbert "tends to run over into the figure of allegory" which unbalances the book making the supporting characters less significant. She states that as far as pornographic content this volume is "likely to quench the
flames of lust because of its exact and immediate description of consequences". In contrast, Orville Prescott wrote an article in the New York Times the next day in which he states that there are two reasons that this novel is not worth any adult reader's attention because it is "dull, dull, dull in a pretentious, florid and archly
fatuous fashion" and it is "repulsive". He states that Lolita "is a demonstration of the artistic pitfall that awaits a novelist who invades the clinical field of the case history". Few novels have created the as much controversy as this novel about a middle-aged man with a penchant for pedophilia. The term "lolita" conjures up many images in our minds which were inspired by this extremely controversial novel and now permeate our soc

2 Paste subsequent reception history in here (maximum 500 words)

In an article in the Guardian which was published on August 28, 1996 James Wood defends the book against critics who see it as a "harbinger of the permissiveness that has ruined our society" and those who see a "straight road between this novel and the
pedophiles in Belgium". Lionel Trilling argues that this novel is not shocking because of the immoral actions that take place but because through the course of the novel we come to condone these actions instead of being repulsed by them. The reader is di
sturbed because his feelings towards pedophilia are much more complicated after reading this book. In 1962 a screen version of Lolita came out which was directed by Stanley Kubrick and written by Nabokov himself. Nabokov was nominated for an Academy Award for his screenplay the same year. This version was much less racy than the novel since censorship
was rather tight in the 1960s. In order to be marketable the film had to conform to certain codes that had strict rules against sexually perverse material Thus, the sexual content of the plot was downplayed significantly in the 1962 movie version. It open
ed to strong box office sales despite mixed reviews. It was viewed as droll and absurd and lacked the sexual content that was expected. The posters for the movie stated "How did they ever make a movie like 'Lolita'?" and most critics responded that they
didn't. However, critics today generally view this as Kubrick's most misunderstood and underrated film. The 1997 version of Lolita was produced by Adrian Lyne and written by Stephen Schiff. It is currently playing without any real controversy in Russia but still has not found a theatrical distributor in the United States. The sexual relationship is shown fa
r more graphically in this version though Richard Schickel claims that this is not a movie that we need to be protected from because though it offers a "certain sympathetic understanding of Humbert" he is adequately punished for his deviance. Over forty years have passed since "Lolita" was first published but it is still causing controversy because of the taboo subject that it attempts to deal with.

Assignment 5: Critical Analysis

1 Paste your critical analysis in here (maximum 2500 words)

In recent history few novel have caused as much controversy as "Lolita". It is not permeated with violence, inappropriate language, or pornography (though many will disagree on the last element). It is far more ca
ustic as it presents a relationship between a man and a child that is far more disturbing than the public is willing to accept. The subject matter is taboo because it is so prevalent in American society, and it presents a side of the story that most view
as disgustingly perverse. Reviewers praised this book for its originality and its place as a benchmark for modern fiction. Nabokov stirs up a lot of controversy as he attempt to deal with a subject that has never been dealt with in such fashion in American literary tradition. Some
view this novel as pornographic but those who praise the book claim that Nabokov skillfully worded the novel. He had an amazing grasp of the English language, which is compounded by the fact that his native language was Russian. He has stated that he has
the ability to see letters in color making it easier for him to come up with such brilliant literary passages. The book starts out amazingly: "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." The novel was also praised because it highlights the hypocrisy that pervades human nature. It forces its audience to look at the relationship between man and adolescent; twelve-year
-old Lolita is not merely a victim of an older man's sexual desires, she is the seductress. Before the explosion of "Lolita" Vladimir Nabokov was a teacher at Cornell University who had written many famous works in Russia and had some literary success in the United States. Afterwards many people viewed him as a harbinger of pedophilia and porno
graphy. Many parents were upset to think that this man, who wrote such a disgustingly tasteless novel, was teaching their daughters in college classes. On the Cornell campus he became known as a lecturer that should not be missed. This novel soon intrigue
d the public, and it hit the best-seller list shortly after its publication and remained there for two years. In the 1960s many college literature classes were using it in their syllabi. By the mid-1980s it had sold over 14 million copies. Nabokov died in
1977 with mixed reviews; some merited his literary genius while others criticized him for his demented portrayal of a pedophile. Twenty years after his death, the portrayals of Vladimir Nabokov are far more favorable. He has been heralded as one of the g
reatest writers of this century, for his novel Lolita which was a literary benchmark, as well as many of his other works in both Russian and English. Nabokov has been compared with such literary geniuses as Frank Kafka, Jorge Luis Borges, and James Joyce.
He has earned his own place as a genius of literature. In the 1950s, in part because of the atomic bomb, American writers turned increasingly to black humour and absurdist fantasy. Many found the naturalistic approach incapable of communicating the rapid pace and sheer implausibility of contemporary life. "A
highly self-conscious fiction emerged, laying bare its own literary devices, questioning the nature of representation, and often parodying earlier fiction rather than social reality. This sort of fiction was referred to as metafiction." Nabokov produced a
body of exquisitely wrought fiction distinguished by linguistic and formal innovation. Despite their artificiality his best novels have a strong emotional thread running through them. At this time in history, Americans were still in a state of shock beca
use they had done the unthinkable in using nuclear weapons against the Japanese. This brought out the possibility for nuclear war, which could very possibly destroy all human life. People were anxious to escape the realities present in everyday life and w
ere more open to new ideas in art. Meyer Abrams, a professor of English as Cornell University, stated that "it was a stroke of good fortune that Lolita was published when the imposition of controls over that kind of fiction was weakening in response to a
widespread change in mores. The reading public was accepting situations and language in fiction that they hadn't in the fairly recent past." It written in at the end of the 1950s: the 1960s, a decade of sexual freedom and rebellion, was only two years aw
ay. "Lolita" was not immediately accepted but it was written at an important time in history when the issues in censorship were coming to the forefront; it helped pave the way for later battles, though no recent novel can really be compared to this one. "Lolita" has been compared to Ulysses by James Joyce because it also "by high art transmutes persons, motives, and actions which in ordinary life are considered indecent into objects of delight, compassion, and contemplation" book. His literature style ha
s been compared to that of Jorge Luis Borges who was an Argentinean-born author who also wrote in the style of metafiction. He has also been compared to Frank Kafka, another Russian-born literary genius. There were no other novels written at this time tha
t had to do with this subject matter; it was far more daring than any of the other literature published at this time. Lolita will never cease to shock, and this quality alone gives it the potential for best-seller status. It seesaws wildly from emotion jolting us of balance. It is a case study in child abuse but it also manages to be a passionate and poignant love story.
Lionel Trilling stated that, at this time in American fiction, no man had thought so tenderly of his lover and no women had been so charmingly evoked as Lolita was. He also stated that the reason that the public is so shocked by this book has little to d
o with the fact that it is about pedophilia. People are disgusted because they come to sympathize with the hero Humbert Humbert; they see themselves in Humbert and are simultaneously repelled and attracted to the novel. "Lolita" is more than just a "love
story"; it is also a parody of American society. Americans are not only attracted to this novel because of the controversy that it creates but also because they see themselves reflected in the hero, or rather the anti-hero. This book stayed on the best-seller list for two years, from 1958 to 1959 and it is still a popular book and the subject of much controversy. It has difficulty in finding a publisher in the United States and even after doing so it was banned in many place
s throughout the U.S., such as libraries and schools. It was also banned in many other countries such as England and Russia. However, since censorship laws have been softened, it has slowly been accepted as a meritous literary work. The American public is
very interested in books that create a lot of controversy because they want to find out what it is exactly that creates all of the problems. There have been many performances Lolita in other types of media. It was made into a movie in 1961, which was directed by Stanley Kubrick. Nabokov wrote the screenplay and he received an Academy Award nomination for it that same year. However, at this t
ime censorship laws were much more stringent in motion picture than in literature. For this reason, the play was criticized because it downplayed the sexual content of the book. In 1972 the Broadway play "Lolita, My Love" was produced by Harold Prince bu
t it viewed as bland and was thus very unsuccessful. In 1997, another movie version of Lolita was made which had more sexual content than the previous version. This version was also criticized for not sticking with the content of the novel. However, the
actress who played Lolita was fourteen years old, much closer in age to the character in the book and also more child-like than the actress in the original version. Movie distributors were wary to distribute this movie because of all the controversy invo
lved with using an actress that was so young. These performances have helped to keep Lolita in the news and it is still considered to be a very controversial book in America, because it deals with a very sensitive subject. Pedophilia is a very sensitive s
ubject in the eyes of Americans because there are so many cases, almost on a daily basis. Of young girls and older men having affairs. It is a taboo subject, but it permeates everyday news stories, making many people very uncomfortable. But because it is
so prevalent in our society, this novel and its representations in other forms of media, are still making people nervous. The performances in other media have never done the novel justice. The most important element of the story is the language which Nabo
kov uses to tell the story but this can never be successfully through represented in other types of media. Nabokov attempts to deal with a very sensitive and taboo issue in American culture. As a result, he attracts a lot of vehement enemies as well as loyal supporters. His novel forces us to look at ourselves in a different way, a way that makes many people v
ery uncomfortable.

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