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Banned! — Лолита

«Лолита , свет моей жизни , огонь моих чресел . Грех mой , душа моя . Ло -ли –та…”

Lolita-cover Lolita-back Lolita-spine

Владимир Набоков (1899-1977)
New York: Phaedra, Inc., Publishers, 1967
First hardcover edition in Russian

First published in Paris in 1955, then in New York City in 1958 and London in 1959, Vladimir Nabokov’s novel, Lolita, is a controversial masterpiece of English literature.

Originally published as a paperback by a relatively unknown publisher, the first printing of 5,000 copies sold out before year’s end. Graham Greene wrote in London’s Sunday Times that it was one of the three best books of the year. Other early reviews were hardly so generous. Many considered it pornographic. British Customs was ordered to seize copies coming into the British Isles. A year later, France’s Minister of the Interior also banned it.

Times change. In 1998, Lolita was included by Modern Library in its list of 100 best novels of the 20th century.

This is the first edition in Russian, translated by Nabokov, whose mother-tongue was Russian. He added a postscript that appears only in this edition, describing his ambivalence toward his translation. Nabokov’s American publisher, Putnam, chose not to publish the Russian edition, concerned that it would not be a commercial success. Perhaps they were satisfied enough with the response to their American edition, which went into a third printing within days and sold one hundred thousand copies within three weeks. Up until that time, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind (1936), was the only other American novel to have done so well.

All of Nabokov’s writings had been banned in the Soviet Union, although copies of his work were smuggled in. Nabokov was, after all, the son of aristocratic Russians who fled the country during the Revolution. The first printing in Russia was not until 1989. The work, by the once-outlawed, un-favored son of the Soviet state was a stunning success. The first edition in the Russian language was first issued in wrappers. This is “issue b,” in pink cloth, with gilt title stamp along spine and with dust jacket. University of Utah copy donated by Anonymous.

View the original article on the OpenBook Blog

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