Sunday: Hili dialogue

December 6, 2015 • 5:02 am

The weather has been unusually warm for early December in Chicago. That is predicted to continue, with highs this week between 55 and 58°F (13-14°C), albeit with some rain. On this day in 1917, the Finns declared independence from Russia, and, in 1953, Vladamir Nabokov finished his novel Lolita (which I haven’t yet read!). In 1955, baseball great Honus Wagner died, who, my father told me, used to throw baseballs against my grandmother’s outhouse in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is pretending that she’s not a hedonist, but isn’t convincing:

Hili: Hedonism is not a good philosophy.
A: Why?
Hili: This pursuit of happiness is very exhausting.
P1030658 In Polish:
Hili: Hedonizm to nie jest dobra filozofia.
Ja: Dlaczego?
Hili: Ta pogoń za szczęściem jest wyczerpująca.

16 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. Please find time to read Lolita, it’s the best English prose you will read this year, and follow it up with Robert Roper’s Nabokov in America: On the Road to Lolita. Apart from anything else, how many major novelists have published on butterfly evolution?

  2. But, the pursuit of Happiness is in the U.S. constitution. It’s our patriotic duty here to, you know, just do it!

    1. Yeah, in Canada we have “security of the person”: right to life, liberty, and security of the person. But I’m glad you don’t because that would go nastily with the right to bear arms! 😉

  3. ….then in 1980, The Police released “Don’t Stand So Close To Me” which referenced “that book by Nabokov”.

    1. Brain cancer is tricky. Hopefully, it’s been beaten back but I never like to declare myself cancer free because cancer is the perfect thing to punish you with hybris.

  4. Hmmm. I’m curious about Lolita. I’ve just rented the 2013 film from Amazon and will watch it now. My verdict on it will likely influence whether or not I get around to reading the novel. Sadly, fiction is hard to sell to my head. One of the only (non Jane Austen) novels I can claim to have finished and loved was Anna Karenina.

    1. I too have trouble with fiction. I’m always second guessing the author and want a more authoritative opinion.

      1. @rickflick: I know what you mean!

        Just finished Lolita. I liked it, though it the second half of the film grew increasingly more difficult to watch. Remove the fact that she was a minor and the erotic tension was interesting. The story would have been more compelling had tragedy not befallen them all, though there is a bit of relief to all of them being put out of their suffering, one way or another. I have no idea how close the film stayed to the book. The film was not quite good enough to decide me towards actually reading. But bric’s words above extolling the prose makes me curious enough to at least skim a few chapters.

        1. This is how it begins . . .
          Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
          She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
          Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

          or maybe this is how it begins . . .
          “Lolita, or the Confession of a White Widowed Male,” such were the two titles under which the writer of the present note received the strange pages it preambulates. “Humbert Humbert,” their author, had died in legal captivity, of coronary thrombosis, on November 16 , 1952 , a few days before his trial was scheduled to start. His lawyer, my good friend and relation, Clarence Choate Clark, Esq., now of the District of Columbia bar, in asking me to edit the manuscript, based his request on a clause in his client’s will which empowered my eminent cousin to use the discretion in all matters pertaining to the preparation of “Lolita” for print. Clark ’s decision may have been influenced by the fact that the editor of his choice had just been awarded the Poling Prize for a modest work (“Do the Senses make Sense?”) wherein certain morbid states and perversions had been discussed.

          Nabokov plays the Trickster God throughout, the movie just has a version of the plot

          1. I’m scanning it now on my Kindle. The second of the alternate beginnings bric has provided is part of the Forward, which frames the novel as a case history. What’s not quite working for me is the similarity of style in Nabokov’s voice as Forward writer (John Ray, Jr. Ph.D.) and as confessional autobiographer (“Humbert Humbert”). But am I supposed to wonder whether “HH” is the concealed identity of the Forward writer? That said, I do like the prose–maybe not enough to pour over but enough to have looked this much.

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