Thursday, September 3, 2009

The ape behind Lolita

Behind every great novel is a monkey of some sort. Okay, maybe not. But there is behind Lolita, which I just finished reading last night.

The novel has many references to monkeys (Humbert refers to Lolita more than once in monkey terms) and poetry (references to well known works as well as Humbert's own verse).

But the best part of Lolita, in my opinion, was Nabokov's afterward, in which he reveals his inspiration for the novel:
"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. As far as I can recall, the initial shiver of inspiration was somehow prompted by a newspaper story about an ape in the Jardin des Plantes, who, after months of coaxing by a scientist, produced the first drawing ever charcoaled by an animal: this sketch showed the bars of the poor creature's cage. The impulse I record had no textual connection with the ensuing train of thought, which resulted, however, in a prototype of my present novel..."
Inspiration is, after all, a strange animal.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I was talking about this with some of my classmates at The New School MFA last night. Amazing if true.