HOW edmund wilson GOT IT WRONG ABOUT lolita

Kubrick-69Alex Beam at Literary Hub:

In June 1948, as part of their occasional, comradely exchange of erotic literature, Wilson sent Nabokov a 106-page document, “Confession Sexuelle d’un Russe du Sud,” which the psychologist Havelock Ellis had appended to the sixth volume of the French edition of his Studies of Sexual Psychology. Deemed to be an authentic document, the memoir recounted the sexual odyssey of a young, wealthy Ukrainian who lost his virginity at the age of twelve, having been seduced both by girls his age and by older women. Knocked off the path of conventional education by his sexual compulsion, the narrator rights himself as a young man and obtains an engineering degree and a respectable fiancée in Italy. Alas, during a business trip, fate conspires to introduce him to Naples’ worldly and aggressive corps of teenage prostitutes. He becomes addicted to their services, succumbs to the compulsions of his youth, and sees his marital prospects disappear. The confession ends on a note of despair: “He sees no hope of ever mastering his drives in the future,” according to Simon Karlinsky, who researched the Ellis connection in detail.

We know that Nabokov read the Ellis tale closely, because he referred to it twice, once inSpeak, Memory and a second time, in greater detail, when he translated and reeditedSpeak, Memory as Drugiye Berega [Other Shores], into Russian.

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