1947 - Nabokov, who is living in Ithaca, New York, writes to Edmund Wilson: "I am writing two things now 1. A short novel about


L'affaire Lolita

A short history of censorship.

1947 - Nabokov, who is living in Ithaca, New York, writes to Edmund Wilson: "I am writing two things now 1. A short novel about a man who liked little girls—and it's going to be called The Kingdom by the Sea—and 2. A new type of autobiography."

1954 - The longhand copy of Lolita is finished in the spring of 1954 while Nabokov is teaching at Cornell. By the end of the summer, the novel has been rejected by Viking, Simon & Schuster, New Directions, and Farrar, Straus & Giroux because it is considered pornographic and

financially risky. One publisher suggests that Nabokov turn "Lolita into a 12-year-old lad and ha[ve] him seduced by Humbert, a farmer, amidst gaunt and arid surroundings, all this set forth in short, strong, 'realistic' sentences." Nabokov writes to his agent in Paris, asking her to find a publisher willing to print it in English.

1955 - Olympia Press of Paris publishes 5,000 copies in two editions. France, bowing to pressure from the British Home Office, bans the novel. Meanwhile, US Customs decides that the book is admissible into the states. Thus begins "L'affaire Lolita," in which the novel is allowed in the country that originally rejected it, but banned in the country that first published it.

1958 - GP Putnam, New York, publishes the first US edition on August 18. Lolita reaches The New York Times best-seller list on September 28, 1958. Stays no. 1 for seven months. Some libraries ban it.

1958-59 The Chicago Tribune writes that Lolita is "pornography, and we do not plan to review it." The New York Times says: "There are two equally serious reasons why it isn't worth any adult reader's attention. The first is that it is dull, dull, dull. . . . The second is that it is repulsive."

1960 - Nabokov is profiled in Esquire as "The Man Who Scandalized the World."

1962 - Stanley Kubrick's Lolita comes out.

1964 - Nabokov is featured in the obligatory Playboy interview.

1974 - Nabokov's screenplay for Lolita—not the one the movie is based on—is published.

1993 - Adrian Lyne (director of Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal) starts pre-production on Lolita. Harold Pinter and David Mamet are enlisted for the screenplay. However, it is the version by Stephen Schiff, a New Yorker writer, that is eventually used.

1996 - Lolita is finished—to the tune of $58 million. At the same time, a federal law against child pornography is passed, making it a crime to produce any visual depiction that "is, or appears to be, of a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct." Lolita is rejected by American distributors because it is considered too expensive and because its subject—pedophilia—is considered too risky in the prevailing moral climate.

1997 - A case of déjà vu: After America rejects the film, a French distributor, Pathe, picks up the rights to Lyne's Lolita. That fall, Lolita opens in Italy, Spain, then Germany. However, Pathe decides to hold off on previewing the film in France until after its US premiere—which won't happen for another year.

1998 - Lolita opens in the US on Showtime in August through an agreement with Showtime and Goldwyn. The film hit US theaters last week. Will the nymphet be crushed by Kenneth Starr's federally sanctioned porn?

comments powered by Disqus

Friends to Follow