The Enchanter

The Enchanter

by Vladimir Nabokov
     
 

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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.  See more details below

Overview

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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically." — John Updike

"Masterly ... brilliant." — V. S. Pritchett, The New York Review of Books

"A gem to be appreciated by any admirer of the most graceful and provocative literary craftsman." — Chicago Tribune

"One of the best books of the year ... [The Enchanter] displays the supple clarity of a master." — Boston Globe

"Enchanting ... sleekly wrought." — Newsweek

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A novella written in Russian when Nabokov lived in Paris in 1939, The Enchanter resurfaced among his papers 20 years later. Nabokov described it then as ``the first little throb of Lolita '' and said its title anticipated the ``enchanted hunter'' motif in the later novel. Here it refers to the lecherous, ironic, middle-aged protagonist who woos an unappetizing widow to get access to her nymphet daughter. But his phallic ``magic wand'' (paralleled by his antique coral-headed walking stick) transforms wolfish lust into the dream of a fairy idyll, with overtones of Lear/Cordelia and Little Red Riding Hood, to produce an unexpectedly surreal effectand a denouement strikingly different from that of Lolita. Narrated in the third person, the novella has the remoteness of a tale, with its nameless characters and vaguely foreign ambienceunlike the novelistically specific Lolita, rooted in Americanness and told by its main character, Humbert Humbert. The Enchanter is entertaining independent of its Lolita connection. It is arch, delicious and beautifully written. As translator, the author's son writes an endearingly fussy afterword thatrecalls Nabokov's own self-parodying penchant for the long footnote.(October 30)
Library Journal
The Enchanter is a real findthe ``pre- Lolita novella'' Nabokov wrote in Paris in 1939 and subsequently lost. Rediscovered two decades later, it has only now been translated by the author's son. Just as in the later masterpiece, a pedophile marries a widow to be near her daughter; when the mother dies, the way is clear. Yet The Enchanter stands on its own as a bright, brief (some would say heartless) excursion into the mind of a madman, a marvel of potent imagery and taut storytelling. More's the pity then that Dmitri Nabokov has used the occasion to write an off-putting afterword aimed as much at settling literary scores as elucidating the text. Otherwise, highly recommended. Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679728863
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/13/1991
Series:
Vintage International Series
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
144
Sales rank:
598,887
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.60(d)

Meet the Author

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Nabokovs were known for their high culture and commitment to public service, and the elder Nabokov was an outspoken opponent of antisemitism and one of the leaders of the opposition party, the Kadets. In 1919, following the Bolshevik revolution, he took his family into exile. Four years later he was shot and killed at a political rally in Berlin while trying to shield the speaker from right-wing assassins.

The Nabokov household was trilingual, and as a child Nabokov was already reading Wells, Poe, Browning, Keats, Flaubert, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Tolstoy, and Chekhov, alongside the popular entertainments of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne. 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 fiction in English. In his afterword to Lolita he claimed: "My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody's concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English, devoid of any of those apparatuses—the baffling mirror, the black velvet backdrop, the implied associations and traditions—which the native illusionist, frac-tails flying, can magically use to transcend the heritage in his own way." [p. 317] Yet Nabokov's American period saw the creation of what are arguably his greatest works, Bend Sinister (1947), Lolita (1955), Pnin (1957), and Pale Fire (1962), as well as the translation of his earlier Russian novels into English. He also undertook English translations of works by Lermontov and Pushkin and wrote several books of criticism. Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.

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Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
April 23, 1899
Date of Death:
July 2, 1977
Place of Birth:
St. Petersburg, Russia
Place of Death:
Montreux, Switzerland
Education:
Trinity College, Cambridge, 1922

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