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The Enchanter is the Ur-Lolita, the precursor to Nabokov's classic novel. At once hilarious and chilling, it tells the story of an outwardly respectable man and his fatal obsession with certain pubescent girls, whose coltish grace and subconscious coquetry reveal, to his mind, a special bud on the verge of bloom.
took place in a blissful stratosphere, he nearly answered that death, as such, always had been and always would be an obscene idiot, but realized in time that this might cause his consoler to have disagreeable doubts about his ability to impart a religious and moral education to the adolescent girl. There were very few people at the funeral (but for some reason a friend of sorts from former times, a gold craftsman, showed up with his wife), and later, in the home-bound car, a plump lady (who had
name appeared in a manuscript “already marked with instructions for the printer,” as Field has Weidle affirm. As for the three differences Field cites, if his paraphrase of the Weidle article is accurate, then Weidle’s memory of that distant event must have been a bit hazy (Field does admit, in fact, that Weidle “could not remember whether the girl is named in the story”). The fact is that there never was a version called “The Satyr”; indeed, such a title would seem most implausible to anyone
and that therefore he too might after all be human. The stratification of the story is most striking in its double- and triple-bottomed imagery. It is true, in a sense, that some delicate passages are more explicit than elsewhere in Nabokov. But at other moments the sexual undercurrent is no more than the glinting facet of a simile or the momentary derailment of a train of thought headed for a quite different destination. Multiple levels and senses, as is known, occur often in Nabokov. Yet the
you know …,” but comprehending his neighbor’s words only when the girl was nowhere nearby. He learned from this circumstantiating chatterbox that between her and the girl’s mother, a forty-two-year-old widow, there existed a five-year friendship (her own husband’s honor had been saved by the widow’s late spouse); that last spring this widow had, after a long illness, undergone a serious operation of the intestine; that, having long since lost all her family, she had promptly and tenaciously
quite ceased, began to plague me again. Combination joined inspiration with fresh zest and involved me in a new treatment of the theme, this time in English—the language of my first governess in St. Petersburg, circa 1903, a Miss Rachel Home. The nymphet, now with a dash of Irish blood, was really much the same lass, and the basic marrying-her-mother idea also subsisted; but otherwise the thing was new and had grown in secret the claws and wings of a novel. VLADIMIR NABOKOV 1956 1. Excerpt