The annotated Lolita

by Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov

Other authorsAlfred Appel
Paperback, 1991




New York : Vintage Books, c1991.


Presents the degeneration which results from a middle-aged professor's desperate obsession with a precocious, callous teenager whose mother he marries just to be near the young girl.

User reviews

LibraryThing member jfetting
A review in two parts:
1) The Annotation. In short - worth it. For someone new to Nabokov, and to Lolita, this can be hugely helpful. The annotations are extensive (excessive? maybe) and constantly flipping to the endnotes can be annoying. However, the annoyance is totally worth it - Appel does a
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great job identifying Nabokov's brilliant wordplay. Since I am not as clever as Nabokov, and my vocabulary is significantly smaller, the annotations really helped me appreciate his genius. FWIW, I first read Lolita in Appel's class in college, and he definitely knows this book.
2) Lolita itself. Love, love, love this book. Love the humor, love the descriptions of America in the late 40s and 50s, even love Humbert Humbert. Again, the wordplay is fantastic - its hard to believe that English wasn't even Nabokov's first language, it is so completely his plaything. Read this! And then go read Pale Fire, and Speak, Memory!
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LibraryThing member NativeRoses
Good comparison to the House of Sleeping Beauties.
LibraryThing member Crowyhead
If you haven't read Lolita before, I'd suggest not reading the annotations the first time around, unless you don't mind if the annotations give away significant plot points.
LibraryThing member Crystalee
A freaky premise, I know. Probably one of those books I probably never would have picked up on my own (up there with Middlesex) but I'm glad I did. This novel is much more than a tale of lust for a child. About 2/3rds way through, I found myself yawning, but the rest was moving, entertaining and
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LibraryThing member RodneyWelch
Even if you've read Nabokov's masterpiece a dozen times, there are likely things you missed: jokes, allusions, puns, scattered historical references all woven tightly into the narrative. Alfred Appel, with the help of Nabokov himself, catalogues all of these hidden threads and explores them with
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illuminating detail.
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LibraryThing member Wanderlust_Lost
Read this book! It is, in my opinion, the best way to read Lolita. Nabokov's brain was far better stocked than mine and I would never have been in on all his allusions if I hadn't had the annotations. It also points out changes and corrections made by Nabokov himself. All annotations and notes were
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approved by Nabokov to the annotater, a former student of Nabokov's, before Nabokov died. Lolita is a moving book. It's not the semi-pornographic romp that most people thought it was when it first came out. It's stirring and sexual but sex is actually a very small part of it. It's more of a psychological study of one man's journey to know himself. It's not a book that glorifies paedophilia or revels in sex and anybody who thinks it's a disgusting book didn't understand it. It's a beautiful book. Read it!
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LibraryThing member yonas
The sheer fact that Nabakov wrote this book in English, keeping in mind that Russian is his native language, completely astounds me. He is a literary genius and this book remains one of my favorite of all time.
LibraryThing member multifaceted
If you are anywhere near normal, “Lolita” will probably disgust you somehow. Everything good about the book aside (and there are thousands of great things about this book), the sexual relationship between a middle aged man and a twelve year old girl is just something most people can’t get
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past—ok, at least, I couldn’t get past it, even though I really do love the novel. I imagine this is part of the way the novel was meant to be, but, then again, it may just be my own delusions. :)

But for all my disgust with the exploits between Humbert Humbert and Dolores Haze, I should be fair and mention that there are no descriptions of sex, nor any graphic descriptions of anatomy in this book. Even so, and even despite the shock of the age difference, it does arouse your senses; in fact, I find writing like this more interesting than most “erotica” (which really just seems quite plain and boring). And while the book may drag on in a few small parts, in the end I felt a “love/hate relationship” towards Humbert. I felt so sorry for him, despite everything, only because at the end I got the impression he really did begin to love Lolita for reasons other than sex and his recreation of a childhood dream.

This feeling of sadness bordering on pity for Humbert simultaneously makes me rather scared. I've known young girls who read the book/saw the movie and get the same feeling, and then become entranced with wanting to be a "Lolita" of sorts because of it, thinking some older man will be interested in them, eventually learn to actually LOVE them, and then whisk them away as Humbert did--or wished to do--with Dolores. The thing to remember is... how often would a real pedophile "redeem" himself like that, though?!

Nabokov also uses a lot—and I do mean A LOT—of references to other works and to the real world in this book. The annotated version may give away some of the plot, but ultimately I think most readers are better off with it, since you understand all the wordplays, references, and deliberate mistakes much more. It also made the book into a kind of game; I found myself laughing when I recognized what “Humbert” was referencing, and I came away a lot smarter for finding out references to things I had never known before.

I doubly recommend the annotated version if you are thinking of reading Lolita because of some “hype”—either because of the slang derived from Dolores’ nickname, or because of one of the two movies made based on the novel. The book “Lolita” seems to be an in-thing, but mainly because of its “sexual content”—I find most of the literary aspects go unnoticed with younger people like me.
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LibraryThing member wirkman
The Great American Novel. One of the best openings in all of literature, the only novel whose first page I've memorized. A perfect work literary self-undermining, this book transcends each of its successive one-uppings to make for one of the handful of great ironic books. Here you will find ironies
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within ironies.

And a great story, on the surface level, too.
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LibraryThing member bostonbibliophile
Lolita is one of my favorite books for its precision prose, famously unreliable narrator and multitude of allusions and wordplays. The annotated version is great because it explains all these allusions and word games and allows the reader to dig into the construction of the novel to a greater
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degree than is otherwise sometimes possible outside of a classroom. I found the annotations enriched my understanding and appreciation of this literary tour de force tremendously.
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LibraryThing member wordygirl39
Ah, Humbert Humbert. I can't hate this book but I'll never love it. It's just so sad and creepy. I probably need to re-read it now that I have some age on me, though. I get why it was "groundbreaking" and "good" and all that, but I'd just rather read a sex story with more to it than this. Hey, I'm
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a chick, what can I say?
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LibraryThing member billmcn
About the book itself I have nothing to add. It's reputation as one of the finest novels in the English language is well-deserved. I do want to recommend the annotated version, though. Read it once without, but consult the annotations on a reread. Lolita is Nabakov at his most tricky, and it
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enriches the experience to pick up on the connections you missed the first time through.
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LibraryThing member Alera
This novel is surprising, disturbing, and nothing short of brilliant. No one expects a novel to delve into the mind of a pedophile. And no one expects it to be done it what I really think if a fair and true view of just that. It holds no punches. And it is not the 'erotic' novel it was so wrongly
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labeled as being upon first publication. It's a dark, twisted ride of Humbert, his motivations, his plans, his fears, and emotions. He is not a sympathetic creature and not one I could even really come to care for considering the heinousness of his actions, and yet the end still made me cry. There was something about his deluded and unhealthy love for Lolita that in the final words becomes something just a tiny bit more. He doesn't come to a full realization and yet he at the same time becomes aware of the fact that he hurt her, ruined her, can never have her, and the only way he will ever be forever with her is in the pages of the book itself. This is by no means a love story, but it is a story about an obsessive love that goes to far, cuts too deep, and leaves scars nothing can truly ever rectify.
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LibraryThing member Clockwork82736
Brilliant...and the background notes make the story all-the-more interesting. Truly outstanding, and Nabokov's best work.
LibraryThing member rampaginglibrarian
One of my all-time favorite authors--one of my all time favorite books. The things this man could do with language were incredible, and the thought that he could do it in three different languages boggles my mind. Forget that the subject may be pedophelia--that's not what it's about--it's the study
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of a disturbed mind--and it is definitely not pornographic--people looking for that should look elsewhere.
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LibraryThing member rzperllian
Nabokov is brilliant and lyrical. Appel's annotation is both helpful and infuriating. The most straight-forward useful bit is his translation of all the French that sprinkles the text. His analysis is thorough and helped me understand subtleties of the text that I surely would have missed on a
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first read. Yet his allegiance to Nabokov trivia can be infuriatingly self-indulgent, and he has no qualms about spoiling the plot straight from the introduction. Read this book, by all means, but I recommend reading it straight through, then reading it again with all the notes.
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LibraryThing member mmhubbell
This book is a classic and I highly recommend the annotated version, because the surface story is like the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the story as we all know it (from the films, etc) is a complex interwoven subplot of allusions, references, puns, jokes, quotes, pseudonyms, anagrams, cryptograms,
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cryptogames (one of Nabokov's coinages) and so many references to Poe, Freud and Shakespeare, amongst others, that they become jokes (Clare Quilty "mis"quoting Shakespeare "to borrow, and to borrow and to borrow..") One must be either highly educated or read the annotated version to "get" half the book.

But despite all the high and lo brow comedy, it is of course a tragedy. In an attempt to recapture a most singular and sweet blissful brief happiness of youth and love -- to attempt to relive a memory of pure happiness -- of a lonely and soulful boy and his first love, which ended too quickly and tragically, a man puts himself into a lifelong prison of anguish.. and takes a 13 year old girl with him (or tries to). But she isn't really the incarnation of the love of his life he is attempting to convince himself she is. She is a somewhat bratty, manipulative regular American 1950's kid, who is not beyond using her young sexuality to get what she wants, from whomever. She is also, like him, a sad and motherless child. And though her IQ is high, she prefers to lose herself in movie magazines.

Of course the actual "act" which Humbert Humbert commits is highly illegal and immoral and these days tolerated even less than the 50's. If you can't get beyond that, don't attempt to read this book.

But if you can see beyond that and see the unrequited love story, the tragedy, the menace of the other evil shadowing character, the irony, and the absolutely lovely use of the English language (by a non English writer), this is an amazing literary work.
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LibraryThing member MrsRichardSchiller
I wish I could say that this is the 'definitive' annotation, but it is not. It just happens to be the only one I could find to replace my missing FIRST edition copy! Sadly, many "corrections" have been made, that do NOT take into account the fact that Humbert Humbert was educated in Britain and
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France, and that, for instance, his calling a "flashlight" a "torch" was perfectly natural. For the supposedly "lazy" students for whom the annotation is intended, they need only look in a dictionary or on the web to find such ARCHAIC terms! Appel is a ponce, whose supposed insights are actually inSULTS to the reader, and to Nabokov's genius.
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LibraryThing member jhudsui
Humbert is a pedophile who moves in with and then marries a woman who has a twelve year old daughter he wants. Stuff.... happens between them... (I am being vague about that not so much for spoiler purposes as because Humbert is the least reliable narrator in literary history and making definitive
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statements about this book starts arguments), then the mom dies in a freak accident, and then Humbert has the girl all to himself. For sex. Hooray. But he is consumed by obsessive jealousy (not to mention the fear of being punished for his crime.)

In a more conventional novel Lolita's struggle to escape Humbert's custody would be the central conflict but here it's more Humbert's attempts to persuade the reader that there's moral complexity at play and that he has redeeming characteristics and that he truly loves her in his own way etc.

It's hilarious as long as you have a taste for really fucking black comedy. Also, in case you didn't know this, there are pretty much no explicit sex scenes.
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LibraryThing member evanroskos
The annotations make this version hard to read, but they do explain alot. This version is not for the casual reader.
LibraryThing member imjustmea
I'm surprised at how much I loved this book. The subject matter is complex and yes, the main character is a pedophile but thanks to Nabokov's masterful language play I got sucked in to the narrative and began to somewhat acknowledge Humbert Humbert's obsessive "love" for his Lolita. Of course, I
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don't condone his actions but you can't finish the book without pitying/sympathizing with him while also taking into the account the destruction caused by his unusual sexual preferences.

I also recommend the annotated edition. I confess that without it I wouldn't have understood many of the puns, and historical and literary references weaved into the text.
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LibraryThing member raselyem7
This book is phenomenally rich, there is just so much in there to think about and analyze.
LibraryThing member librarycatnip
This book is phenomenally rich, there is just so much in there to think about and analyze.
LibraryThing member kishields
Rates in my personal top 10. This is my 4th read of Lolita and each time is remarkably different. This time I was struck by not only the brilliance of the wordplay and the device of the narrator's blindness and attempted manipulation of everyone, including the reader--but also by the pain of all
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involved: the deluded and pretentious wife, the powerless victim and the "monster" sex addict. The fact that such a clever and beautifully constructed and styled novel can also be so moving and morally powerful is just one of the achievements of this unique masterpiece. Definitely a gift that keeps on giving and meets the reader wherever he or she is at the moment, reading after reading.
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LibraryThing member ccdempsey
Best book.



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