Sprinkled With So Many Coincidences

Peter Sellers plays Claire Quilty, a pompous hipster playwright, the alter ego and nemesis to James Mason’s lustful professor, Humbert Humbert. Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1962)

 
 

The novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is sprinkled with so many coincidences that it is hard to tell when coincidence stops and fate begins. In this work, coincidence and fate are fraternal twins. Whether the reader picks up Lolita for second, third, or three hundred and forty-second reading, hidden little treasures of coincidences and connections spring out from their carefully selected hiding places.

Humbert Humbert has a first love experience when he is young with Annabel Leigh. (the character was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe‘s poem, Annabel Lee). It is a strange coincidence that  Humbert and his Annabell  also have their first romantic encounter by the Mediterranean. After her young tragic death, Humbert cannot get over his infatuation with young girls. However, it is not just any kind of young girl that he pines for. It is a strange breed, the breed of nymphet. When Lolita, the very embodiment of nymphets, first enters the scene, she peers over her sunglasses at Humbert. The sunglasses are a strange connection between Lolita and Annabel Lee. “Half-naked, kneeling, turning about on her knees, there was my Riviera love peering at me over dark glasses” . Lolita is a reincarnation of Humbert’s first love.

In Lolita, the name is used in reference to Mr. Clare Quilty, the man who takes Lolita from Humbert. Carmen and Clare being both male and female names, Lolita uses them to deceive Humbert into thinking he is a woman and no threat.

Several times throughout the novel, Humbert refers to Lolita as his Carmen.
“O my Carmen, my little Carmen!
Something something those something nights,
And the stars, and the cars, and the bars and the barmen-
And, O my charmin’, our dreadful fights.
And the something town where so gaily, arm in
Arm we went, and our final row,
And the gun I killed you with, O my Carmen,
The gun I am holding now”

This song that Humbert recaptures here sums up his relationship with Lolita: their fights, car rides, men looking eagerly at her, and finally the gun that Humbert uses to kill Quilty.

There are a host of more passing literary allusions in Lolita, but they decorate rather than determine the death bound tragedy set by Poe, Proper Mérimée’s Carmen with other tales of love and revenge, and doppelgänger stories.

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Not to Be Drawn

As previously stated in the post Changed Into a Beetle (https://thegenealogyofstyle.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/changed-into-a-beetle/) Vladimir Nabokov, who was a lepidopterist as well as writer and literary critic, insisted that Gregor was not a cockroach, but a beetle with wings under his shell, and capable of flight. Nabokov left a sketch annotated, “just over three feet long”, on the opening page of his (heavily corrected) English teaching copy. In his accompanying lecture notes, Nabokov discusses the type of insect Gregor has been transformed into, concluding that Gregor “is not, technically, a dung beetle. He is merely a big beetle”.

English and Spanish translators have often sought to render the word Ungeziefer as “insect”, but this is not strictly accurate. In Middle High German, Ungeziefer literally means “unclean animal” and is sometimes used colloquially to mean “bug” – a very general term, unlike the scientific sounding “insect”. Kafka had no intention of labeling Gregor as any specific thing, but instead wanted to convey Gregor’s disgust at his transformation. The phrasing used by Joachim Neugroschel is: “Gregor Samsa found himself, in his bed, transformed into a monstrous vermin”, whereas David Wyllie says” “transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin”.

However, in Franz Kafka‘s letter to his publisher of 25 October 1915, in which he discusses his concern about the cover illustration for the first edition, he uses the term Insekt, saying: “The insect itself is not to be drawn. It is not even to be seen from a distance.”

The first edition cover, is not a definitive statement on the story either. Is it the afflicted Gregor Samsa we see or his unnerved father fleeing from the sight of the creature in his son’s room? As it was written in German, Kafka never definitively stated what Gregor had become. The term he used, in what has now become one of the more famous opening lines in literature, to describe Gregor’s transformation was “ungeheueres Ungeziefer,” which literally means “unclean animal not suitable for sacrifice.” This has been translated (and mistranslated) as “gigantic insect” in some cases, but in later years, more translators have settled on “monstrous vermin,” as this seems to suit Kafka’s vague intent much better.

 
 

Die Verwandlung, first edition cover
 

Gregor Samsa as Illustrated by an Spanish Painter

A Spanish version of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, illustrations (engravings) by José Hernández. Epilogue by Vladimir Nabokov. Galaxia Gutenberg (Barcelona, 1999)
 

The painter José Hernández was born in Tangiers in January 1944.

He alternates his studies between the Spanish Institute and the French School in Tangiers. He becomes interested in mathematics and competitive sport. He enjoys long distance running and draws relentlessly. After a fruitful period in which he draws and paints from life, he becomes interested in experimenting with different painting materials, which leads him to a wider knowledge of a number of different oil and watercolor techniques.

He exhibits his first works at the Librairie des Colonnes in Tangiers in 1962, and receives support from friends, artists and writers who encourage him to explore new fields in the arts.

In 1964 he settles in Madrid. There he presents his first solo exhibition in 1966 at Galería Edurne. Since then numerous exhibitions both within and outside of Spain have taken place.

In 2006 he was awarded the National Prize for Graphic Arts.

He died in November 2013.

Changed into a Beetle

Nabokov’s drawings and annotations on the first page of Kafka’s The Metamorphosis. He certainly had some thoughts about the language – or at least the translation.

 
 

In his essay on Frank Kafka‘s The Metamorphosis, Vladimir Nabokov writes:

Scene I: Gregor wakes up. He is alone. He has already been changed into a beetle, but his human impressions still mingle with his new insect instincts. (Nabokov 1980 260)

This description, which concludes an argument for Nabokov‟s interpretation, is controversial: the text says only that Gregor Samsa has been turned into a gigantic “vermin” (Ungeziefer). Nabokov agrees with a number of critics that Gregor has become an insect, but the text never specifies which kind. Here is part of Nabokov‟s argument that Gregor becomes a beetle:

Now what exactly is the “vermin” into which poor Gregor, the seedy commercial traveler, is so suddenly transformed? It obviously belongs to the branch of “jointed leggers” (Arthropoda), to which insects, and spiders, and centipedes, and crustaceans belong. If the “numerous little legs” mentioned in the beginning mean more than six legs, then Gregor would not be an insect from a zoological point of view. But I suggest that a man awakening on his back and finding he has as many as six legs vibrating in the air might feel that six was sufficient to be called numerous. We shall therefore assume that Gregor has six legs, that he is an insect.

Next question: what insect? Commentators say cockroach, which of course does not make sense. A cockroach is an insect that is flat in shape with large legs, and Gregor is anything but flat: he is convex on both sides, belly and back, and his legs are small. He approaches a cockroach in only one respect: his coloration is brown. That is all. Apart from this he has a tremendous convex belly divided into segments and a hard rounded back suggestive of wing cases. In beetles these cases conceal flimsy little wings that can be expanded and then may carry the beetle for miles and miles in a blundering flight … He is merely a big beetle. (Nabokov 1980 259-60)

An Inquisitive Butterfly

“Did I ever mention that her bare arm bore the eight of vaccination? That I loved her hopelessly? That she was only fourteen? An inquisitive butterfly passed, dipping, between us.”

Vladimir Nabokov
Lolita

 
 

Handwritten draft dedicated to Vera Evseevna Slonim, Nabokov’s wife. In the summer of 1948, Nabokov wrote the firsts texts of a novel, drafted on the back of his entomology index cards. This drafts were for his most famous work: Lolita.

 
 

Vera ended her own budding career as a writer to support her husband as critic, reader, and typist, and sustained the family through her work as secretary and translator. After moving to the United States of America in 1940, she learned to drive and chauffeured her husband on many field trips, notably in the North American West, to hunt butterflies. To protect him she carried a handgun. Nabokov relied on her in his work and “would have been nowhere without her.” During his lectures, she would sit in the front row. She was his inspiration, editor, and first reader; all his works are dedicated to her. Lolita was saved by her from the flames more than once. However, personal letters pertaining to her and her marriage were destroyed.

 
 

The Two Sweetest Passions

“Literature and butterflies are the two sweetest passions known to man.”

Vladimir Nabokov

 
 

Photo portrait of Vladimir Nabokov by Phillippe Halsman, circa 1968

 
 

Vladimir Nabokov, 1972

 
 

Nabokov’s career as an entomologist was as distinguished as his novels. His interest in this field had been inspired by books of Maria Sibylla Merian he had found in the attic of his family’s country home in Vyra. Throughout an extensive career of collecting he never learned to drive a car, and he depended on his wife Véra to take him to collecting sites. During the 1940s, as a research fellow in zoology, he was responsible for organizing the butterfly collection of the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. His writings in this area were highly technical. This, combined with his specialty in the relatively unspectacular tribe Polyommatini of the family Lycaenidae, has left this facet of his life little explored by most admirers of his literary works. He described the Karner Blue. The genus Nabokovia was named after him in honor of this work, as were a number of butterfly and moth species (e.g. many species in the genera Madeleinea and Pseudolucia bear epithets alluding to Nabokov or names from his novels). In 1967, Nabokov commented: “The pleasures and rewards of literary inspiration are nothing beside the rapture of discovering a new organ under the microscope or an undescribed species on a mountainside in Iran or Peru. It is not improbable that had there been no revolution in Russia, I would have devoted myself entirely to lepidopterology and never written any novels at all.”

The Highest Enjoyment

“I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip. And the highest enjoyment of timelessness―in a landscape selected at random―is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants. This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern―to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.”

Vladimir Nabokov

 
 

Nabokov hunting butterflies. Photo by Carl Mydans, 1958

Portraits of a Red Haired Lady

Hand-painted dress and platforms by special order, Dior Haute Couture

 
 

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, Gustav Klimt, 1907

 
 

 The first of two portraits Gustav Klimt painted of Bloch-Bauer, it has been referred to as the final and most fully representative work of his golden phase. Klimt took three years to complete the painting; preliminary drawings for it date from 1903/4. It is made of oil and gold on canvas, showing elaborate and complex ornamentation as seen in the Jugendstil style. Klimt was a member of the Vienna Secession, a group of artists that broke away from the traditional way of painting. The picture was painted in Vienna and commissioned by Adele’s husband Ferdinand Bloch-Bauer. As a wealthy industrialist who had made his fortune in the sugar industry, he sponsored the arts and favored and supported Gustav Klimt. Adele Bloch-Bauer became the only model who was painted twice by Klimt when he completed a second picture of her, Adele Bloch-Bauer II, in 1912.

 
 

Sweater and skirt, Calvin Klein

 
 

Woman with a Fan (Madame Lunia Czechowska), Amedeo Modigliani, 1919

 
 

Amedeo Modigliani painted this–one of ten portraits he did of this sitter–one year before his death and three years after he’d met the lovely Lunia Czechowska (1895-after 1970). The Polish woman and her husband, Casimir, were old friends of Modigliani’s patron/dealer Leopold Zborowski. Despite the facts that Lunia was very much married in 1916 and “Modi” would shortly become involved with Jeanne Hébuterne, or that the two women became so friendly that one took care of the other’s out-of-wedlock daughter, only his death caused the artist to cease attempting to seduce Lunia.

Here he shows his firm friend posed gracefully, her seated body in its yellow dress forming lithe curves against the scarlet background. Later in life, Czechowska vividly recalled sitting for Modi as he drank cheap brandy, sang, lapsed into Italian and, eventually, fell so far into the act of painting that he became oblivious to the presence of another human being. And then, there she was on canvas, left with ” … the impression of having the soul laid bare and of being in the strange position of being able to do nothing to disguise her feelings.” In hindsight, it all sounds rather more seductive than a physical seduction.

 
 

Corset, Bottega Veneta

 
 

The Cripple, John Currin, 1997

 
 

Norman Bryson opens the brilliant, anxious essay he wrote for the lavish book on John Currin with an admission: ‘When I first saw Currin’s The Cripple, what I sensed was not only the cruelty that lay within the construction of the image, but a nasty stickiness in that cruelty, a way it had of making you connive in its own malevolence.’ He goes on to explain that the ‘figure’s misshapen and twisted body evidently originates with the painter, whose attitude towards the deformation he inflicts seems to include enjoyment.’

 
 

Silk-organza petal dress with jewel brooch, by special order, Armani Privé

 
 

Ballerinas, Edgar Degas, 1884

 
 

In this pastel, Edgar Degas revisited a theme he had already tackled in his work in the 1870s – ballerinas resting. He also went back to his regular studies on the effects of contre-jour, lighting which “reduces to silhouette”, suppressing details, erasing the distinctive features of a face or a body, making them anonymous.

But while still employing the old formulae, Dancers was innovative in its size and composition, and without doubt, is the best example of what has been called Degas’ “classical period”. Around 1884, the painter, in fact, simplified his compositions, reduced the depth of his pictorial space, lowered the viewpoint to make it more natural and concentrated on one, single character or group of figures. At the same time, he abandoned the often caricatural approach of his previous works. In doing this, he was responding to a desire expressed by critics and the public: to protest “against the confused mass of colours and the jumble of indecipherable lines that are destroying contemporary painting”. From this point of view, Dancers is effectively a manifesto.

 
 

Sheer dress, slip-dress, hat, mask and belt, Louis Vuitton

 
 

Man-Crazy Nurse, № 2, Richard Prince, 2003

 
 

Man-Crazy Nurse #2 plays the role of the ultimate femme fatale in Richard Prince‘s celebrated series of nurse paintings. Her full-blooded lust barely concealed by her primly buttoned and starched white uniform, she clutches a standard-issue hospital clipboard as if checking off the names of the men she has devoured. Casting a side-long glance, this libidinous nurse seems to have her next patient/victim in sight. Prince’s lushly expressive brushwork, which floods the canvas in shades of fleshy pink and blood red, serves as both a come-on and a warning.

Prince painted Man-Crazy Nurse #2 in 2002, the year he started working on his nurse series, and it was included in his first exhibition of these works at Barbara Gladstone Gallery the following year. In this body of work, Prince appropriated the covers of pulp romance novels from his collection of vintage books and transferred them onto canvas using an ink-jet printer, which he then layered with vigorous skeins of color. He veils his nurses with surgical masks that both add an element of mysterious allure, and turn them into potentially menacing masked bandits. In some cases he retains the original title, while in others he substitutes another novel’s title, and heightens ambiguity by blocking out the elements that provide any narrative mooring for his protagonists. The original covers often included handsome doctors or patients, or scenes of lovers caught in rapt embraces, which Prince subsums into a hazy fog of luridly colored paint.

A voracious bibliophile — an obsession which he has documented in various artist’s books such as American English (2003) — Prince has for years amassed an extensive collection of secondhand books and memorabilia, ranging from titles on film noir and trash literature to letters, manuscripts, publicity pictures, and first editions of favorites such as Lolita.

 
 

Photographs by Peter Lindbergh, Harper’s Bazaar, May 2008

The Sculptor of Images

Originally published on February 11, 2013

 
 

Self-Portrait. Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002)

 
 

“On the stormy New Year’s Eve of 1925, the liner Versailles reached Halifax from Beirut. After a voyage of twenty-nine days, her most excited passenger in the steerage class must have been a seventeen-year-old Armenian boy who spoke little French, and less English. I was that boy.

My first glimpse of the New World on a steely cold, sunny winter day was the Halifax wharf, covered with snow. I could not yet begin to imagine the infinite promise of this new land. For the moment, it was enough to find myself safe, the massacres, torture, and heartbreak of Armenia behind me. I had no money and little schooling, but I had an uncle, my mother’s brother, who was waiting for me and recognized me from a crude family snapshot as I stepped from the gangplank. George Nakash, whom I had not seen before, sponsored me as an immigrant, guaranteed that I would not be a “public charge,” and traveled all the way from his home in Sherbrooke, Quebec, for our meeting — the first of his many great kindnesses.

We went up from the dock to the station in a taxi, the likes of which I had never seen — a sleigh-taxi drawn by horses. The bells on their harnesses never stopped jingling; the bells of the city rang joyously to mark a new year. The sparkling decorations on the windows of shops and houses, the laughing crowds — for me it was an unbelievable fantasy come true. On the two-day journey to my uncle’s home, I marveled at the vast distances. The train stalled in a deep snowdrift; we ran out of food; this situation, at least, was no novelty for me.

I was born in Mardin, Armenia, on December 23, 1908, of Armenian parents. My father could neither read nor write, but had exquisite taste. He traveled to distant lands to buy and sell rare and beautiful things — furniture, rugs, spices. My mother was an educated woman, a rarity in those days, and was extremely well read, particularly in her beloved Bible. Of their three living children, I was the eldest. My brothers Malak and Jamil, today in Canada and the United States, were born in Armenia. My youngest brother, Salim, born later in Aleppo, Syria, alone escaped the persecution soon to reach its climax in our birthplace.

It was the bitterest of ironies that Mardin, whose tiers of rising buildings were said to resemble the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and whose succulent fruits convinced its inhabitants it was the original Garden of Eden, should have been the scene of the Turkish atrocities against the Armenians in 1915. Cruelty and torture were everywhere; nevertheless, life had to go on — albeit fearfully — all the while. Ruthless and hideous persecution and illness form part of my earliest memories: taking food parcels to two beloved uncles torn from their homes, cast into prison for no reason, and later thrown alive into a well to perish; the severe typhus epidemic in which my sister died, in spite of my mother’s gentle nursing. My recollections of those days comprise a strange mixture of blood and beauty, of persecution and peace.

I remember finding brief solace in my young cousin relating her Thousand and One Nights tales of fantastic ships and voyages and faraway people, and always, solace in the example of my mother, who taught me not to hate, even as the oppression continued.

One day, I returned from school, my forehead bleeding. I had been stoned by Turkish boys who tried to take away my only playthings, a few marbles. “Wait,” I told my mother defiantly, “from now on I am the one who will carry stones.” My mother took me in her arms and said, “My son, they do not know what they are doing. However, if you must retaliate — be sure you miss!”

My mother’s generosity, strength, and hope sustained our family. She took into our home a young Armenian girl, shared our few morsels of food with her, and encouraged her to use her hands instead of her eyes, which had been cruelly mutilated. My mother herself seemed tireless. She had to go every day to the distant mountain spring which was the one source of water for the whole community. Allowed only one small pail, she would wait patiently in line for hours to get enough water for her children. Running water, to me, is still a great blessing.

In 1922, our family was allowed to flee. We had to leave our doors open — with us we took no baggage, only our lives. And we had to flee on foot. During our month-long journey with a Bedouin and Kurdish caravan, which would have taken only two days by the forbidden train, my parents lost every valuable they had managed to save. My father’s last silver coin went to rescue me after I was caught foolishly making a sketch of piled-up human bones and skulls, the last bitter landmark of my country.

In the safety of Aleppo, Syria, my father painstakingly tried to rebuild our lives. Only those who have seen their savings and possessions of a lifetime destroyed can understand how great were the spiritual resources upon which my father must have drawn. Despite the continual struggle, day after day, he somehow found the means to send me to my Uncle Nakash, and to a continent then to me no more than a vague space on a schoolboy’s map.

Uncle Nakash was a photographer of established reputation, still a bachelor when I went to live with him, and a man of generous heart. If my first day at Sherbrooke High School proved a dilemma for the teachers—in what grade did one place a seventeen-year-old Armenian boy who spoke no English, who wanted to be a doctor, and who came armed only with good manners? — the school was for me a haven where I found my first friends. They not only played with me instead of stoning me, but allowed me to keep the marbles I had won. My formal education was over almost before it began, but the warmth of my reception made me love my adopted land.

I roamed the fields and woods around Sherbrooke every weekend with a small camera, one of my uncle’s many gifts. I developed the pictures myself and showed them to him for criticism. I am sure they had no merit, but I was learning, and Uncle Nakash was a valuable and patient critic.

It was with this camera that I scored my first photographic success. I photographed a landscape with children playing and gave it to a classmate as a Christmas gift. Secretly, he entered it in a contest. To my amazement, it won first prize, the then munificent sum of fifty dollars. I gave ten dollars to my friend and happily sent the rest to my parents in Aleppo, the first money I could send to them.

Shortly afterward my uncle arranged my apprenticeship with his friend John H. Garo of Boston, a fellow Armenian, who was recognized as the outstanding portraitist in the eastern states. Garo was a wise counselor; he encouraged me to attend evening classes in art and to study the work of the great masters, especially Rembrandt and Velázquez. Although I never learned to paint, or to make even a fair drawing, I learned about lighting, design, and composition. At the Public Library, which was my other home in Boston, I became a voracious reader in the humanities and began to appreciate the greater dimensions of photography.

My interest lay in the personalities that influenced all our lives, rather than merely in portraiture. Fostered by Garo’s teachings, I was yearning for adventure, to express myself, to experiment in photography. With all my possessions packed in two suitcases, I moved to Ottawa. In the capital of Canada, a crossroads of world travel, I hoped I would have the opportunity to photograph its leading figures and many foreign international visitors.

My life had been enriched by meeting many remarkable personalities on this photographic odyssey, the first of many, to record those men and women who leave their mark on our era. It would set a pattern of working away from my studio. Any room in the world where I could set up my portable lights and camera—from Buckingham Palace to a Zulu kraal, from miniature Zen Buddhist temples in Japan to the splendid Renaissance chambers of the Vatican — would become my studio.”

 
 

Tennessee Williams

 
 

Wystan Hugh Auden

 
 

Albert Camus

 
 

Sir George Bernard Shaw

 
 

Ernest Hemingway

 
 

Vladimir Nabokov

 
 

Sir John Buchan, Governor of Canada

 
 

Jacques Cousteau

 
 

Martin Luther King Jr.

 
 

Muhammad Ali

 
 

Nelson Mandela

 
 

Albert Einstein

 
 

Jackie & John Fitzgerald Kennedy

 
 

Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

 
 

Rainier III Grimaldi, Prince of Monaco & Princess Grace Kelly

 
 

Audrey Hepburn & Mel Ferrer

 
 

Humphrey Bogart

 
 

Lauren Bacall

 
 

Audrey Hepburn

 
 

Grace Kelly

 
 

Anita Ekberg

 
 

Ana Magnani

 
 

Brigitte Bardot

 
 

Jacqueline Lee Bouvier

 
 

Elizabeth Taylor

 
 

Joan Crawford

 
 

Sophia Loren with her son Edoardo

 
 

Martha Graham

 
 

Alberto Giacometti

 
 

Max Ernst

 
 

Alexander Calder

 
 

Isamu Noguchi

 
 

Josef Albers

 
 

Henry Moore

 
 

Man Ray

 
 

Joan Miró

 
 

Andy Warhol

 
 

Georgia O´Keeffe

 
 

Pablo Picasso

 
 

Norman Rockwell

 
 

Walt Disney

 
 

Frank Lloyd Wright

 
 

Mies van der Rohe

 
 

Charles Édouard Jeanneret-Gris (Le Corbusier)

 
 

Alfred Hitchcock

 
 

Christian Dior

Tattooed on the Body and Mind

“I think it is all a matter of love: the more you love a memory, the stronger and stranger it is”
Vladimir Nabokov

 
 

“…Comrades mine, and I in the midst, and their memory ever I keep—for the dead I loved so well; For the sweetest, wisest soul of all my days and lands…and this for his dear sake…”
Walt Whitman
When Lilacs Last in the Door-yard Bloom’d
(Fragment)

 
 

Lana Del Rey’s right forearm tattoo in honour of Vladimir Nabokov and Walt Whitman

A Crush on Lolita

Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, written in English and published in 1955 in Paris and 1958 in New York. It was later translated by its Russian-native author into Russian. The novel is notable for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, middle-aged literature professor and hebephile Humbert Humbert, is obsessed with the 12-year-old Dolores Haze, with whom he becomes sexually involved after he becomes her stepfather. “Lolita” is his private nickname for Dolores.

In April 1947, Nabokov wrote to Edmund Wilson: “I am writing … a short novel about a man who liked little girls—and it’s going to be called The Kingdom by the Sea….” The work expanded into Lolita during the next eight years. Nabokov used the title A Kingdom by the Sea in his 1974 pseudo-autobiographical novel Look at the Harlequins! for a Lolita-like book written by the narrator who, in addition, travels with his teenage daughter Bel from motel to motel after the death of her mother; later, his fourth wife is Bel’s look-alike and shares her birthday.

Some critics have accepted Humbert’s version of events at face value. In 1959, novelist Robertson Davies excused the narrator entirely, writing that the theme of Lolita is “not the corruption of an innocent child by a cunning adult, but the exploitation of a weak adult by a corrupt child. This is no pretty theme, but it is one with which social workers, magistrates and psychiatrists are familiar.”

The novel abounds in allusions to classical and modern literature. Virtually all of them have been noted in The Annotated Lolita edited and annotated by Alfred Appel, Jr. Many are references to Humbert’s own favourite poet, Edgar Allan Poe.

Chapter 26 of Part One contains a parody of James Joyce‘s stream of consciousness.

Humbert Humbert’s field of expertise is French literature (one of his jobs is writing a series of educational works that compare French writers to English writers), and as such there are several references to French literature, including the authors Gustave Flaubert, Marcel Proust, François Rabelais, Charles Baudelaire, Prosper Mérimée, Remy Belleau, Honoré de Balzac, and Pierre de Ronsard.

Vladimir Nabokov was fond of Lewis Carroll and had translated Alice in Wonderland into Russian. He even called Carroll the “first Humbert Humbert”.

Lolita contains a few brief allusions in the text to the Alice books, though overall Nabokov avoided direct allusions to Carroll. In her book, Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin, Joyce Milton claims that a major inspiration for the novel was Charlie Chaplin‘s relationship with his second wife, Lita Grey, whose real name was Lillita and is often misstated as Lolita. Graham Vickers in his book Chasing Lolita: How Popular Culture Corrupted Nabokov’s Little Girl All Over Again argues that the two major real-world predecessors of Humbert are Lewis Carroll and Charlie Chaplin. Although Appel’s comprehensive Annotated Lolita contains no references to Charlie Chaplin, others have picked up several oblique references to Chaplin’s life in Nabokov’s book. Bill Delaney notes that at the end Lolita and her husband move to the Alaskan town of Grey Star while Chaplin’s The Gold Rush, set in Alaska, was originally set to star Lita Grey. Lolita’s first sexual encounter was with a boy named Charlie Holmes, whom Humbert describes as “the silent…but indefatigable Charlie.” Chaplin had an artist paint Lita Grey in imitation of Joshua Reynolds‘s painting The Age of Innocence. When Humbert visits Lolita in a class at her school, he notes a print of the same painting in the classroom. Delaney’s article notes many other parallels as well.

In chapter 29 of Part Two, Humbert comments that Lolita looks “like Botticelli’s russet Venus—the same soft nose, the same blurred beauty”, referencing Sandro Botticelli‘s depiction of Venus in, perhaps, The Birth of Venus or Venus and Mars.

In chapter 35 of Part Two, Humbert’s “death sentence” on Quilty parodies the rhythm and use of anaphora in T. S. Eliot‘s poem Ash Wednesday.

Many other references to classical and Romantic literature abound, including references to Lord Byron‘s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and to the poetry of Laurence Sterne.

After its publication, Lolita attained a classic status, becoming one of the best-known and most controversial examples of 20th century literature. The name Lolita has entered pop culture to describe a sexually precocious girl. The novel was adapted to film by Stanley Kubrick in 1962, and again in 1997 by Adrian Lyne. It has also been adapted several times for stage and has been the subject of two operas, two ballets, and an acclaimed but failed Broadway musical.

 
 

Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1992)

 
 

Bert Stern worked as a photographer on Lolita and shot the publicity photographs of Sue Lyon.

 
 

The Crush (Alan Shapiro, 1993)

 
 

The plot of The Crush was based on an actual incident involving the neighbor of Shapiro.

The Land of Forgetting

Graphic design by Carlos Vives himself. Illustrations by Jerry Lofaro

 
 

 
 

Vallenato is something of a musical melting pot, derived from various aspects of local history: the dominant instrument is the accordion, brought to South America by European immigrants. It’s accompanied by the small caja drum, which evolved from those once used by African slaves, and also by a notched stick scraped to provide percussion called the guacharaca, which originated with Colombia’s native population. The resulting music, first documented in the late 1800s, has come to define coastal Colombia almost as much as the works of author Gabriel García Márquez. In fact, the Nobel Prize winner is said to have described his epic novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude(Cien años de soledad), as a 400-page vallenato.

Vallenato used to be considered low-class music for field hands, rarely played outside Colombia’s cowboy country. But in recent years, Colombian singer Carlos Vives, among others, has fused vallenato with pop to create hits played across the Spanish-speaking world.

Love in the Time of Cholera (El amor en los tiempos del cólera) previous title was Crowned Goddess (La Diosa Coronada), as a tribute to a song composed by Leandro Díaz, whose intro appeared in the beginning of such novel:

“The words I am about to express they now have their own crowned goddess”

Leandro José Díaz Duarte (February 20, 1928 – June 22, 2013) was mostly known for his ability to compose very descriptive and narrative vallenato songs despite his blindness. He was born blind but that was not an impediment for him to develop a sense of the world he could not see.

As we read Love in the Time of Cholera we’ll notice that the main character Florentino Ariza refers to the object of his adoration, Fermina Daza, as a “crowned goddess” several times, and even composes a special waltz just for her with that term of endearment.

The story occurs mainly in Cartagena de Indias and towns near the Magdalena River. And it encompasses approximately the half century between 1880 and 1930. Some critics choose to consider Love in the Time of Cholera as a sentimental story about the enduring power of true love. Others criticize this opinion as being too simple.

This is manifested by Ariza’s excessively romantic attitude toward life, and his gullibility in trying to retrieve the sunken treasure of a shipwreck. It is also made evident by the fact that society in the story believes that Fermina and Juvenal Urbino are perfectly happy in their marriage, while the reality of the situation is not so ideal. Critic Keith Booker compares Ariza’s position to that of Humbert Humbert in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, saying that just as Humbert is able to charm the reader into sympathizing with his situation, even though he is a “pervert, a rapist, and a murderer”, Ariza is able to garner the reader’s sympathy, even though the reader is reminded repeatedly of his more sinister exploits.

García Márquez himself said in an interview, “you have to be careful not to fall into my trap”. The young love of Fermina Daza and Florentino Ariza is based on the love affair of García Márquez’s parents. However, as García Márquez explained: “The only difference is [my parents] married. And as soon as they were married, they were no longer interesting as literary figures.” The love of old people is based on a newspaper story about the death of two Americans, who were almost 80 years old, who met every year in Acapulco. They were out in a boat one day and were murdered by the boatman with his oars. García Márquez notes, “Through their death, the story of their secret romance became known. I was fascinated by them. They were each married to other people.”

García Márquez’s main notion is that lovesickness is literally an illness, a disease comparable to cholera. Ariza suffers from this just as he might suffer from any malady. At one point, he conflates his physical pain with his amorous pain when he vomits after eating flowers in order to imbibe Fermina’s scent. In the final chapter, the Captain’s declaration of metaphorical plague is another manifestation of this. The term cholera as it is used in Spanish, cólera, can also denote human rage and ire. (The English adjective choleric has the same meaning.) It is this second meaning to the title that manifests itself in Ariza’s hatred for Urbino’s marriage to Fermina, as well as in the social strife and warfare that serves as a backdrop to the entire story.

Stone Village Pictures bought the movie rights from the author for US$3 million, and Mike Newell was chosen to direct it, with Ronald Harwood writing the script. Filming started in Cartagena, Colombia, during September 2006. But this book is related to another movies and TV series. In the How I Met Your Mother episode The Magician’s Code, Ted describes Love in the Time of Cholera as his favorite book. A note is hidden in this book during a scene of Serendipity (Peter Chelsom, 2001). Also, in the 2000 film High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000), John Cusack’s character states that he has read Love in the Time of Cholera as well as a number of other books and jokingly asks, “They’re about girls, right?”.

 
 

 
 

Ten years after the novel was published, Carlos Vives released his seventh album, The Land of Forgetting (La Tierra del Olvido). In 1993, backed by the band “La Provincia”, Vives released the album Clásicos de la Provincia in which he started fusing Vallenato with rock, pop and other Caribbean Colombian ethnic rhythms. This fusion scandalized Vallenato purists. For Vives, who was born in Magdalena (just like Garcia Márquez did), vallenato is similar to blues, rock and other rhythms which were developed around the Mississippi river and New Orleans. The title The Land of Forgetting alludes to a fragment of Love in the Time of Cholera:

“…The stench of the loads of salted catfish added to the loss of appetite caused by her grief, and eventually destroyed her habit of eating, and if she did not go mad with despair it was because she always found relief in the memory of Florentino Ariza. She did not doubt that this was the land of forgetting”.