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

Different covers of Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita” over time, which was originally published in 1955. Credit: From the book “Cover” by Peter Mendelsund, published by PowerHouse Books. “Lolita, light of my life, fire of 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 of a middle-aged literature professor, Humbert Humbert, who becomes sexually involved with 12-year-old “Lolita” after seducing and marrying her widowed mother. Stories of the entanglements of 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 literary critic Michael Maar startled the literary world by arguing that Nabokov may have read and even stolen the plot of “Lolita” from an obscure 1916 German short story, also called “Lolita.” Despite a similar storyline, the German “Lolita” contained little of the beauty or inventiveness of 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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