Was Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’ inspired by a little-known story by Salvador Dali?

Different covers Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” over time, which was originally published in 1955. Credit: the book “Cover” by Peter Mendelsund, published by PowerHouse Books. “Lolita, light my life, fire my loins…” Since those provocative opening lines and its publication in 1955, Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” has shocked and captivated readers with its perversely brilliant tale a middle-aged literature professor, Humbert Humbert, who becomes sexually involved with 12--old “Lolita” after seducing and marrying her widowed mother. Stories the entanglements older men and prepubescent girls have long found their way into literature and mythology, and yet “Lolita” is considered an utterly original work. For years, scholars have looked for Nabokov’s antecedents, and in 2005 German critic Michael Maar startled the world by arguing that Nabokov may have read and even stolen the plot “Lolita” from an obscure 1916 German short story, also called “Lolita.” Despite a similar storyline, the German “Lolita” contained little the beauty or inventiveness Nabokov’s, and there is little proof that Nabokov, who did not speak German, could have known about the story. Nabokov scholar Brian Boyd said the comparison was widely considered “totally spurious.” Now, though, […]

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