O Window in the Dark!

The Early Career of Vladimir Nabokov

appendix G: Echoes of Things to Come


From “On a Book Entitled Lolita”: “The first little throb of Lolita went through me late in 1939 or early in 1940, in Paris, at a time when I was laid up with a severe attack of intercostal neuralgia.” A few little “pre-throbbings” can be found even before that:  


  • (from The Gift):  Boris Ivanovich Shchyogolev, a rather boorish old codger, tells young Fyodor:   “Ah, if only I had a tick or two, what a novel I’d whip off! From real life. Imagine this kind of thing:   an old dog — but still in his prime, fiery, thirsting for happiness — gets to know a widow, and she has a daughter, still quite a little girl — you know what I mean — when nothing is formed yet but already she has a way of walking that drives you out of your mind — a slip of a girl, very fair, pale, with blue under the eyes — and of course she doesn’t even look at the old goat. What to do?” (The very last line is a quick jab at Chernyshevsky.)


  • (from Laughter in the Dark):  “This had been the night of which he had dreamed for years. The very way she had drawn her shoulder blades together and purred when he first kissed her downy back had told him that he would get exactly what he wanted, and what he wanted was not the chill of innocence. . . .”

    (cf. Lolita):  “So this was le grand moment. I had left my Lolita still sitting on the edge of the abysmal bed, drowsily raising her foot, fumbling at the shoelaces and showing as she did so the nether side of her thigh up to the crotch of her panties — she had always been singularly absent-minded, or shameless, or both, in matters of legshow. This, then, was the hermetic vision of her which I had locked in — after satisfying myself that the door carried no inside bolt.”


  • (from Laughter in the Dark):  “Her nudity was as natural as though she had long been wont to run along the shore of his dreams. There was something delightfully acrobatic about her bed manners. And afterward she would skip out and prance up and down the room swinging her girlish hip and gnawing at a dry roll left over from supper.”

    (cf. Lolita):  “Brown, naked, frail Lo, her narrow white buttocks to me, her sulky face to a door mirror, stood, arms akimbo, feet (in new slippers with pussyfur tops) wide apart, and through a forechanging lock tritely mugged at herself in the glass. . . . The bed was a frightful mess with overtones of potato chips.”


  • (from The Gift):  “Chernyshevsky held him back in the full sense of the word:   for a long time they would wrestle, both of them limp, scrawny and sweaty — toppling all over the floor, colliding with the furniture — all the time silent, all you could hear was their wheezing; then, stumbling into one another, they would both search for their spectacles beneath the upturned chairs.”

    (cf. Lolita):  “We fell to wrestling again. We rolled all over the floor, in each other’s arms, like two huge helpless children. He was naked and goatish under his robe, and I felt suffocated as he rolled over me. I rolled over him. We rolled over me. They rolled over him. We rolled over us.”


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