Today is the 60th Anniversary of the publication of Lolita, one of the most controversial novels of the twentieth century. Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, written in English and published in 1955 in Paris, in 1958 in New York, and in 1959 in London. It was later translated by its Russian-native author into Russian and published by Phaedra Publishers in New York in 1967. The novel is notable for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, a 37-to-38-year-old literature professor called Humbert Humbert, who 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.
Lolita quickly attained a classic status; it is today regarded as one of the prime achievements in 20th century literature, though is also among the most controversial. 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 commercially unsuccessful Broadway musical.
Lolita is included on TIME magazine’s list of the 100 best English-language novels to have been published from 1923 to 2005. It is also fourth on the Modern Library’s 1998 list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century, and holds a place in the Bokklubben World Library, a 2002 collection of the most celebrated books in history.
Did You Know?..
French officials banned Lolita for being “obscene,” as did England, Argentina, New Zealand and South Africa.
Today, the term Lolita has come to imply an oversexed teenage siren, although Vladimir Nabokov, for his part, never intended to create the association. In fact, he nearly burned the manuscript in disgust, and fought with his publishers over whether an image of a girl should be included on the book’s cover.