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THE ENCHANTER by Vladimir Nabokov


by Vladimir Nabokov

Pub Date: Oct. 15th, 1986
ISBN: 0679728864
Publisher: Putnam

A 1939 Paris novella of Nabokov's that, as he acknowledged, served as "the first little throb" for Lolita--being as well about a tormented pedophile who's willing to go so far as to take on the girl's mother if it means eventually securing the pubescent prey. The narrator, a bachelor jeweler, is sitting on a park bench one day when the 12-year-old girl in question comes roller-skating by. She takes away his breath, and he immediately makes a private vow to have her, but the girl is temporarily in care of someone other than her mother, who is sick (in fact, she's dying). The jeweler, "the enchanter," comes up with a diabolically complex plan of proposing marriage to the dying mother: he knows she'll be off the scene soon enough, and he can then best take guardianship of the girl. He and the sick mother do marry (a teeth-clenched consummation on his part), and then the woman, as expected, so dies. So now to the girl--a country inn, a single bed, an assault (he can't help himself, he can't postpone), a comic disaster. It isn't Lolita--it has none of that book's discordances of texture--but it is Nabokov, at every incrustedly prolix sentence. Son Dmitri Nabokov has translated as well as provided a pretentious afterword--which carps against biographer Andrew Field, and the latest louts who dare suggest that a recently published pseudonymous novel, Novel With Cocaine, is the work of his father, and which makes rather more of this elegant but stictly semi-pornographic/hack-work sketch than it deserves.