Jeremy Irons ∇ Reading Lolita—Exhibit Nº 1—Vladimir Nabokov
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Uploaded on Oct 12, 2010
Why did you write Lolita ?
« It was an interesting thing to do. Why did I write any of my books, after all ? For the sake of the pleasure, for the sake of the difficulty. I have no social purpose, no moral message ; I've no general ideas to exploit, I just like composing riddles with elegant solutions. »
What was the genesis of Lolita ?
« She was born a long time ago, it must have been in 1939, in Paris ; the first little throb of Lolita went through me in Paris in '39, or perhaps early in '40, at a time when I was laid up with a fierce attack of intercostal neuralgia which is a very painful complaint—rather like the fabulous stitch in Adam's side. As far as I can recall the first shiver of inspiration was somehow prompted in a rather mysterious way by a newspaper story, I think it was in Paris Soir, about an ape in the Paris Zoo, who after months of coaxing by scientists produced finally the first drawing ever charcoaled by an animal, and this sketch, reproduced in the paper, showed the bars of the poor creature's cage. »
Did Humbert Humbert, the middle-aged seducer, have any original ?
« No. He's a man I devised, a man with an obsession, and I think many of my characters have sudden obsessions, different kinds of obsessions ; but he never existed. He did exist after I had written the book. While I was writing the book, here and there in a newspaper I would read all sorts of accounts about elderly gentlemen who pursued little girls : a kind of interesting coincidence but that's about all. »
Did Lolita herself have an original ?
« No, Lolita didn't have any original. She was born in my own mind. She never existed. As a matter of fact, I don't know little girls very well. When I consider this subject, I don't think I know a single little girl. I've met them socially now and then, but Lolita is a figment of my imagination. »
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