3 generations later, Lolita has lost none of its allure

Kim Curtis in the Chicago Tribune:

Nabokov_3Lolita was 12 when Vladimir Nabokov brought her to life as the obsession of her stepfather, a middle-age man who calls her “light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin. My soul. . . . Lo. Lee. Ta.”

After three generations, readers remain relentlessly drawn to Nabokov’s opening lines — more poetry than prose. They remain equally repelled by Humbert Humbert, a child molester who essentially held his stepdaughter captive; he is as despicable today as he was in 1955.

“Lolita,” a deceptively thin volume, has sold 50 million copies. Vintage Books already has sold all 50,000 copies of a new, special 50th anniversary edition it released this month.

A close-up of a young woman’s mouth replaces the previous cover photograph, a black-and-white photograph of a girl’s legs, in ankle socks and saddle shoes.

“Lolita” and “nymphet” — another word Nabokov coined — have worked their way into the lexicon. Two movie versions, first by Stanley Kubrick in 1962 starring James Mason and later by Adrian Lyne in 1997 starring Jeremy Irons, have coaxed millions into theaters. Iranian author Azar Nifisi penned her own contemporary best seller, “Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books,” inspired in part by Nabokov, and the “Gothic Lolita” is all the rage among teenage fans of Japanese anime.

More here.