“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”
These words open the novel “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov published in the United States exactly fifty nine years ago today, on 18 August 1958.
The novel is notable for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator—a middle-aged literature professor called Humbert Humbert—is obsessed with what he calls “nymphets”. He becomes infatuated and sexually involved with his 12-year-old stepdaughter Dolores, affectionately nicknamed Lolita.
He writes the story from his prison cell (where he is awaiting trial for murder), managing to seduce the reader with his gift for beautiful language and savage humour.
The book, which has been called a work of genius by some and pornography by others, has become one of the best-known literature works of the 20th century.
It was adapted into a film by Stanley Kubrick in 1962 – starring s James Mason, Shelley Winters, Peter Sellers and Sue Lyon – and in 1997 by Adrian Lyne- starring Jeremy Irons and Melanie Griffith.