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Solving Nabokov's Lolita Riddle

About the Book

Joanne Morgan
Solving Nabokov's Lolita Riddle
Sydney: Cosynch Press, 2005
ISBN 0 646 43913 8

Vladimir Nabokov’s famous ‘nymphet’ novel Lolita scandalised the reading public when it was released in Paris in 1955. Lolita has since gone on to become one of the most popular novels ever written. It has been translated into 25 languages and sold over 50 million copies worldwide. Yet despite Lolita’s iconic status, few people are aware that during two of his 1960s interviews Nabokov clearly stated he had planted a ‘riddle’ within Lolita.

Amongst academic scholars ‘Nabokov the Magician’ has a deserved reputation for performing literary tricks involving puns, mirrors, chess problems, butterfly motifs, coincidences, ‘fatidic dates’ and anagrams. Beneath the veneer of these games Nabokov’s fiction reveals a man who was obsessively concerned with incest and pedophilia. His hostility to Freud’s Oedipus complex theory is well-documented. So too is his controversial advocacy of deception in art.

For the first time this book presents a solution to the largely forgotten Lolita riddle. It deciphers the triptych code Nabokov embedded within Lolita, his memoirs Speak, Memory, and his translation of Alexander Pushkin’s epic poem, Eugene Onegin. The astonishing solution to the author’s riddle finally reveals the traumatic scenes of incest that once thoroughly disrupted Vladimir Nabokov’s own, outwardly idyllic, aristocratic childhood in the dying days of Tsarist Russia.

Read this book and find out why in 1954, when Nabokov was still trying to find a US publisher for Lolita, he sent a letter to James Laughlin at New Directions asking if he might be interested in publishing 'a time bomb.'

After deciphering Nabokov's intricate code in Chapter One, Solving Nabokov's Lolita Riddle moves on in Chapter Two to examine Nabokov's lifelong fascination with Charles Dodgson (alias Lewis Carroll), the author of the two classic Alice books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-glass (1871). It offers a new and exciting approach to understanding Nabokov's early fiction, and examines how Nabokov engaged Carroll in a symbolic 'chess duel' whose central aim was to protect the child (the pawn) against the molesting intentions of the knight. Chapter Three examines the 'pre-Lolita' Lolita phenomenon in the US – in particular the enormous impact made by Shirley Temple's films. Close scrutiny is paid to several dubious scenes found in Shirley Temple's films (some of which are parodied by Nabokov within Lolita) which show signs of pedophilic encoding orchestrated by Shirley's Hollywood film directors. I examine the rising public alarm regarding 'sex perverts' during the 1950s, 1950s reviews of Lolita, as well as Nabokov's response to the uproar that broke out following Lolita's publication. In Chapter Four I move on to analyze Lolita's enduring socio-cultural impact on high art culture – visible in films, teenzines, fashion trends, as well as language (e.g. the term 'Loli-lovers' currently used by the pedophile community in cyberspace). I also discuss the bandit subculture of child porn now flourishing on the Internet and the escalating problem of child prostitution in Third World nations.

Overall, my book argues in favor of a comprehensive program of moral reform designed to inhibit the pedophilic aesthetic project which champions the sexual exploitation of children. The text includes an index, a bibliography and three appendices which 1) provide background research information into pedophilia (as gleaned from relevant research in the human sciences), 2) revisit Freud's controversial decision to abandon his 'child seduction' theory and adopt his (widely discredited) theory of the Oedipus complex, and 3) provide a survivor's account of how Nabokov's Lolita was used as a propaganda tool by her step-father to justify his incestuous abuse of her.

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About the Author

Joanne Deirdre Morgan was born in 1959 in Ottawa, Canada. She grew up in a Canadian diplomatic family, living in Moscow, Brussels and Vienna, before moving to Canberra, Australia in 1975. She finished a honors degree in political science and philosophy at the Australian National University in 1982. She was actively involved in the Women's Liberation Movement during the early 1980s and was employed as a child support worker in a women's refuge. After becoming an Australian citizen, she joined the public service and worked as a policy officer for the Federal and State governments. In 1996 she returned to university studies, completing a Social Work degree in 1999. She won a Commonwealth scholarship to undertake PhD studies in sociology at the University of Sydney. The title of her completed thesis is "Social Change and the Charismatic 'Author-Leader': A Case Study of Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique" (2002).

Jo's interest in the widespread social problems generated by pedophilia was sparked by background research for her article "US Hate Crime Legislation: A Legal Model to Avoid in Australia", published in the Journal of Sociology in 2002 (abstract). She initially read Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita intending to include it as a literary case study of pedophilia within her PhD thesis. Instead she became side-tracked by the author's insistence that he had planted a 'riddle' within Lolita. Solving Nabokov's Lolita Riddle is Jo's first book.

Jo is also a member of the small acoustic folk group, Joyshell. You can hear a few demo songs from Joyshell's recent CD at www.joyshell.com