Lolita, The Annotated Lolita
a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, published in 1955. Fear of the possibility of prosecution for obscenity made both American and British publishers unwilling to accept the novel and it was first published in Paris by the Olympia Press; American publication followed in 1958 and British in 1959. The subject of the novel is the passion of the narrator, Humbert Humbert, for a 12-year-old girl, Lolita, the daughter of his second wife, Charlotte, a widow. She, fortuitously, is killed in a road accident after only a few weeks of marriage to Humbert (he had intended to kill her himself) and the now orphaned Lolita falls into his care. The sexual adventures of Humbert and Lolita are presented in minute detail but the novel is never obscene or pornographic, in large part because much of the eroticism is comic, but also because Nabokov's preoccupation with the transforming power of art and the expressive properties of language enable him to invest the nympholepsy which is at the centre of the novel with a rapturousness that is rare in modern fiction. Lolita has been much discussed and is seen, variously, as Nabokov's supreme realization of American suburban life, his most eloquent rejection of the limitations of social realism, and the most verbally playful of his ‘American’ novels. Its virtues, however, are considerably easier to enumerate: Lolita tells a fascinating story, is beautifully written, and offers much penetrating psychological characterization. Alfred Appel's The Annotated Lolita (1971) attempts to explicate many of the ‘problems’ of the text.