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Lolita: A Screenplay (Vintage International) Paperback – International Edition, August 26, 1997

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Editorial Reviews

This is the novel that first established Nabokov's reputation with a large audience tour-de-force of comic satire on sex and the American ways of life.

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Product Details

  • Series: Vintage International
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 1st Vintage International Ed edition (August 26, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679772553
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679772552
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #913,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Nabokov household was trilingual, and as a young man, he studied Slavic and romance languages at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his honors degree in 1922. For the next eighteen years he lived in Berlin and Paris, writing prolifically in Russian under the pseudonym Sirin and supporting himself through translations, lessons in English and tennis, and by composing the first crossword puzzles in Russian. In 1925 he married Vera Slonim, with whom he had one child, a son, Dmitri. Having already fled Russia and Germany, Nabokov became a refugee once more in 1940, when he was forced to leave France for the United States. There he taught at Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell. He also gave up writing in Russian and began composing ficticvbn ral books of criticism. Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Joseph E. Green on February 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Lolita: a Screenplay is recommended reading for anyone who loved the novel and appreciates Nabokov's wonderful sense of humor. The story goes that Nabokov presented his screenplay to Kubrick, who told him, "Look, regardless of how brilliant it may or may not be, it would take eight hours to film." So it's unfilmable; if Borges can write literary criticism about books which don't exist, surely it's not so radical to devise screenplays which are never meant to be filmed. Nabokov adds much to his existing work, including a psychiatrist who speaks directly to the camera and a cameo for himself. One wishes that Adrian Lyne had added a few of the humorous elements of the screenplay to his film, which is fine but perhaps a bit too reverent which it should be audaciously funny. All in all, I highly recommend picking up what amounts to one of the 20th century's great geniuses playing hooky.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steven Daedalus on July 16, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
You can practically feel Vladimir Nabokov struggling to put together something that resembled an ordinary screenplay. He really tries hard. Quilty had multiple shady appearances in the novel and the Big Reveal at the end came as a surprise, to me at least. (I guess I wasn't an "astute reader.") But here, Quilty stands out in his several scenes, as I imagine Nabokov imagined he should in a movie that isn't a book. The character must be more visible, must have lines, and so forth. So, yes, Nabokov is trying hard.

But I think we can doubt if he ever saw a traditional screenplay in his life, although he'd been an extra in some German films of the 1920s. THIS certainly doesn't look like a screenplay. It has passages squeezed into one or two flowery paragraphs that would have taken up two days of screen time.

But no matter how hard he tried, he seems to have been unable to suppress his gift for humor, irony, and originality. He has John Ray, Jr., Ph.D. introducing the story on the screen, referring to "This here manuscript." He's written himself into the screenplay as "that nut with the net over there." (His character makes gentle fun of the author.) And he leaves directions that play tricks with the camera and the editing, as if the entire enterprise were to be his own personal puppet show.

It's not a screenplay, not a book, and it never became a movie. It's an original work though, a revision of the classic novel. Not without evidence of some lapses in attention. Lolita is caused to use some British locutions -- "I shall do this," or "I'd quite forgotten" -- that sound funny in a smart but vulgar American kid.

I have some problems with Nabokov's personality. Some artists are egotists but VN was a true champion at the game.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By L. Norris on September 8, 2007
Format: Paperback
Ok, I'll admit it, I am another Nabokovian and my curiosity was spurred when I found out VVN's screenplay was published by vintage. My real curiosity was in what kind of insight the screenplay could offer to VVN's original novel, and it did render some of that insight. This is a fun read, not as delightful as the novel by any stretch of the mind but it is still very delightful. What makes it so insightful is the fact that the screenplay is meant for view, not necessarily to be read, and using the points that Nabokov emphasizes in the explanations of the scenery, behaviorisms, and so forth, again are extremely helpful to anyone trying to get a better grasp of the novel. In working on a piece of criticism on VVN's earlier novel The Defense, I actually used the screenplay because the Annabelle Lee theme is emphasized more than in the novel and is easier to use in a critical study.

As a work of art, it is most certainly a great piece by itself, but to readers who are expecting this to be another masterwork like the novelized Lolita or Pale Fire, this pales in comparison.
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Format: Paperback
Why should one read VN’s screenplay of Lolita? First, because it’s an enjoyable 2-hour alternative to re-reading the novel — “purely as a vivacious variant of an old novel,” as VN puts it in his introduction.

Secondly, for the “deleted scenes” that Nabokov removed from the novel but reused for the screenplay such as a Humbert being given a grotesquely humorous guided tour of the ruins of the nonexistent McCoo home where Humbert was to have lived, but which has burned down before his arrival. Another is Humbert’s tutoring Lolita through his favorite poem by Poe.


Thirdly, for Nabokov’s delicious “Action” elements inserted between the dialogue, which are normally so staccato and boring in screenplays: “We are served the dish of the large, pine-fringed, scintillating Ramsdale Lake;” “Details of nocturnal storm, gesticulating black trees;” “She turns from sea-star supine to seal prone.” “The playwright Quilty, dead to the world, sprawls among emblems of drunkenness.”

I think the best reason, however, is to see how Nabokov envisioned the film, and how he dealt with the central problem of filming the book and others like it (e.g. Catcher in the Rye) — namely where the is a function of the book’s unique narration, which is unlikely to translate to film. Nabokov’s solution surprised me. He chose to use Humbert’s psychiatrist narration as voiceover with a pastiche of visual elements: quick cuts to Humbert as a child on the beach, snapshots coming to life, (Cut to: Picnic, lighting) and maps with arrows tracing the route, etc.. This technique also seems to successfully transfer the parodic elements of the book into the film (something that Kubrick did well but in other ways.) Nabokov’s version reminded me of an almost Wes Anderson-like treatment.
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