“You Can Always Count on a Murderer for a Fancy Prose Style” – On Nabokov’s Lolita
On April 19, Leland de la Durantaye, the Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of English Literature at Harvard University, spoke about Vladimir Nabokov's scandalous novel Lolita, published in 1955. Nabokov was fifty-six at the time; it was his twelfth novel, his third in English, and "the finest he would ever write, amongst the finest ever written," Durantaye said. Since its publication, Nabokov's work has been read by millions and written about by thousands. Not only has it been transformed for the stage and screen and been the subject of several court cases of note, but modern dance pieces and pop songs have found inspiration in it, tool. The Oxford English Dictionary has incorporated some of the book's inventions, and universities throughout the world have courses dedicated solely to teaching the work. "And yet, despite all this activity and adulation," Durantaye says, "the book has remained resolutely enigmatic." His lecture, "You Can Always Count on a Murderer for a Fancy Prose Style -- On Nabokov's Lolita," opened with a few excerpts from the prurient work and then dashed into its own curious investigation: Is Lolita a novel that represeents art for art's sake, is it an incitement to vice or an encouragement to virtue, or, perhaps, a work of rare moral force?