Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Looking at Lolita

(1964 US LP Spoken Arts, New York)

“She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms, she was always Lolita.” Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

Nabokov's Lolita is incredibly complex and layered and poetic, but I also think it's so interesting to go back to it and consider how the cultural idea or concept of a "Lolita" differs from the actual literary one. Or many just look at all the different covers? The New Republic has a slide show tracing the covers both over time and in different countries. Here are just a couple of the ones that struck me.

(1969 IT Mondadori, Rome (Poster))

Lots of covers with grown women (well over Lo's age) with popsicles and lollipops.

(1988 LEB Dar Al-Adab, Beirut)

Is Lolita an Alice lost in wonderland? This cover makes me think so.

(1995 GB Penguin, London)

I love this painting by Balthus, but Nabokov had said that he didn't want to have a girl on the cover of his book. Does this one count?

(2001 FR Gallimard (Du monde entier), Paris)

Has anyone else noticed how often books aimed at women show body parts on the cover especially legs? A couple of Lolita covers go that way too, but at least these are legs belonging to a girl (Though I think of Lolita as having scabby knees).

(2005 JAP Shinchosha, Tokyo)

I think this is a great photo. It's open to interpretation as to who is doing the looking. So many of these covers of girls/women are presented as if we're looking through Humbert Humbert's eyes. Here - it depends on the viewer on how you read the image.

(2006 GB Penguin (Red Classics), London)

I love this image - it's cartoony and retro. I think it captures the way Nabokov mixes pop culture references in with the high literary stuff.

(1959 TUR Aydin Yayinevi, Istanbul)

This cover seems so different from the others that it may seem wrong, but I think it could read as Lolita's naive perspective on what having a love affair with a "movie star" like Humbert Humbert would look like. Or maybe that's just the English major in me over-reading this cover...

(1994 BRA Companhia das Letras, São Paulo)

Jarring and unnerving - such a thought-provoking cover. The split screen, the contrasting colors, the perspectives, the lack of words - really, really interesting.

All these cover plus more found on Covering Lolita)



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