The book that revisits the cult novel by Nabokov

Lolita Sarah Weinman

What if Nabokov's famous novel drew its roots not from an overflowing imagination but from a dark news item? In a fascinating investigative book, journalist Sarah Weinman sets out to demonstrate how the kidnapping of an American girl in 1948 (fifteen years before Lolita's publication in the US) inspired the author's classic book. Russian-American. Three reasons why this investigation will obsess you.

An infinitely controversial success

Did you miss a train? Small recap '. Sometimes described as a masterpiece for its poetic writing, often criticized for its sulphurous remarks, Lolita tells the devouring passion of a man for a very young teenager. Sold in millions of copies worldwide, the book continues to generate much ink.

This is the reason why Sarah Weinman sought to draw a parallel between the writing of this controversial work and the sordid case of the kidnapping of Sally Horner , an eleven-year-old girl: Nabokov , stuck in the writing of Lolita. , would have been very much inspired by this terrible event to finish his novel. This would once again relaunch the debate on the immorality of this work.

A news item at the origin of a literary classic

Les acteurs Sue Lyon et James Mason dans le film Lolita de Vladimir Nabokov

In her investigation, Sarah Weinman says that shortly after the publication of Lolita , a curious journalist dared to draw a parallel between the actual kidnapping of a little girl by a pedophile and the novel hated and then ovationed by the writer. Furious, the Nabokovs did not hesitate to shut him down. Except that fifty years later, no luck, an academic specialist in the writer puts the cover back and manages to demonstrate solid links between this news item and the novel.

It would be thanks to this first known case of kidnapping of a child abused for nearly two years by her executioner that Nabokov would have dared to tackle a theme that worked on him: the forbidden desire for a child.


In addition to taking us through the exciting process of writing a novel that has become classic all over the world, Sarah Weinman gives us an investigation that reads like an unbreakable thriller . Is she right to bet that Nabokov really used the appalling abuse of a child to enter posterity? If so, does this redistribute the cards for judging the work? You be the judge !

Lolita. The real story , Sarah Weinman, Seuil, € 22

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