• Véra Nabokov Was the First and Greatest Champion of “Lolita”


    The long-suffering wife who stands at her husband’s side, lending moral cover, reliably serves to blot out another woman’s agony. Véra did just the opposite. She alone emphasized Lolita’s plight from the start. In interviews, among her husband’s colleagues, with family members, she stressed Lolita’s “complete loneliness in the whole world.” She had not a single surviving relative! Reviewers searched for morals, justifications, explanations. What they inevitably failed to notice, Véra complained, was “the tender description of the child’s helplessness, her pathetic dependence on monstrous Humbert Humbert, and her heartrending courage all along.” They forgot that “ ‘the horrid little brat’ Lolita was essentially very good indeed.” Despite the vile abuse, she would go on to make a decent life for herself. Readers, too, ignored Lolita’s vulnerability, her pain, the stolen childhood, the lost potential. Lolita was not a symbol. She was a defenseless child. The subversive book, as Donald Malcolm wrote in his New Yorker review of the novel, in 1958, “coolly prodded one of the few remaining raw nerves of the twentieth century.” No less transgressive, shockingly more familiar, it strikes different nerves in the early twenty-first. Véra complained of Lolita, “She cries every night, and the critics are deaf to her sobs.” We hear her loud and clear today, when, finally, she has come to stand at the center of the story that bears her name."

    • Un élément qui est toujours escamoté par les analyses que j’ai pu lire ou entendre autour de #lolita c’est que Humbert Humbert est l’assassin de la mère de Dolorès. C’est lui qui fait d’elle une orpheline et c’est lui qui deviens son tuteur légale, ajoutant l’inceste à la pédocriminalité. L’inceste est un autre élément oublié systématiquement. #inceste

    • Even the best of readers had a difficult time separating Nabokov from Humbert. Nadezhda Mandelstam, the writer and widow of the great poet Osip Mandelstam, insisted that the man who wrote “Lolita” “could not have done so unless he had in his soul those same disgraceful feelings for little girls.” Maurice Girodias assumed Nabokov to be Humbert Humbert. After all was said and done, having defended the novel in the most adoring and erudite terms, Lionel Trilling informed his wife, having observed the couple in action, that Véra was Lolita

    • Largely lost in the shuffle, in the manifold discussions of perversion, obscenity, and indecency, was the title character herself. Most found Lolita as unlikable in her way as they found Humbert deplorable in his. A writer for The New Republic dismissed her, alluding to “fragile little girls who are not really fragile.” Many blamed Lolita and felt sorry for Humbert. Few seemed willing to forgive her for being a spoiled, non-virginal nymphet. To Robertson Davies, the theme of the book was “not the corruption of an innocent child by a cunning adult, but the exploitation of a weak adult by a corrupt child.” The seduction would become hers, as the monster would become Frankenstein. Headlines wrote her off as a “naughty” girl or “an experienced hoyden.” In 1958, Humbert’s real perversity seemed to be that he could find himself drawn to “a Coke-fed, juke-box-operated brat with a headful of movie mags for a brain,” according to a reviewer for Time. The New York Post noted that Lolita generally came off as “a fearsome moppet, a little monster, a shallow, corrupt, libidinous and singularly unattractive brat.” Dorothy Parker found the book brilliant, funny, and anguished, but the anguish to which she responded was Humbert’s. Of Lolita, Parker wrote, “She is a dreadful little creature, selfish, hard, vulgar, and foul-tempered.” A Cornell colleague found her unrealistic: a self-respecting American girl would never have passively submitted to Humbert. She would have had the good sense to call the police.

  • “Talking of Dead Jack” | The New Yorker

    On the evening of October 21, 1969, Allen Ginsberg received a telephone call from the journalist Al Aronowitz: Jack Kerouac had died, earlier that day, in a Florida hospital. For Ginsberg, it was the second such call in just over a year and a half. On February 10, 1968, he had learned that Neal Cassady, the inspiration for “On the Road” and, aside from Kerouac, Ginsberg’s closest friend, had died, in Mexico.

    The Kerouac news deeply saddened Ginsberg but did not surprise him. Kerouac’s heavy drinking over the previous decade had increased to such an extent that his closest friends wondered if he had a death wish. Ginsberg and Kerouac had grown distant—largely because Kerouac had become less and less available to Ginsberg, but also because Ginsberg no longer wished to be around his old friend, who, on any given night, could be a belligerent, unhappy, argumentative, and nasty drunk. Kerouac had remarried, bought a house for his wife and his invalid mother, and moved to Florida, where he lived a semi-reclusive life.

    Immediately after hearing the news of Kerouac’s death, this was not the man Ginsberg remembered. He recalled the joyful, enthusiastic, ambitious, prodigious writer whose work influenced his own. Kerouac had basked in the heat of spontaneity; he had put Ginsberg on the path to Buddhism; the two had shared their innermost thoughts. His intelligence had been a beacon.

    Ginsberg recorded fragments of his thoughts and memories of Kerouac in his journals, as he had done when he learned of Cassady’s death. He also wrote a long poem, “Memory Gardens,” which was composed over several sittings and was eventually included in his National Book Award-winning volume, “The Fall of America,” which was published in 1973.

    Those initial journal entries are presented here on the fiftieth anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s death.

    #Jack_Kerouac #Allen_Ginsberg #Beat_generation

  • “How Does It Feel To Be a White Man?”: William Gardner Smith’s Exile in Paris | The New Yorker

    In 1951, the novelist Richard Wright explained his decision to settle in Paris after the war. “It is because I love freedom,” he wrote, in an essay titled “I Choose Exile,” “and I tell you frankly that there is more freedom in one square block of Paris than in the entire United States of America!”


    Baldwin, who moved to Paris in 1948, two years after Wright, embraced the gift at first but came to distrust it.

    While blacks “armed with American passports” were rarely the target of racism, Africans and Algerians from France’s overseas colonies, he realized, were not so lucky. In his essay “Alas, Poor Richard,” published in 1961, just after Wright’s death, Baldwin accused his mentor of celebrating Paris as a “city of refuge” while remaining silent about France’s oppressive treatment of its colonial subjects: “It did not seem worthwhile to me to have fled the native fantasy only to embrace a foreign one.”

    Baldwin recalled that when an African joked to him that Wright mistook himself for a white man, he had risen to Wright’s defense. But the remark led him to “wonder about the uses and hazards of expatriation”:


    #exil #racisme #liberté #France

    • Cet article me rappelle cette polémique autour de #Richard_Wright, dont #WEB_Du_Bois sous entend que s’il a eu son passeport pour se rendre au Congrès des écrivains et artistes #noirs en #France en 1956 alors que lui ne l’a pas eu, c’est la preuve qu’il travaillait pour la #CIA. Les archives de la CIA semblent effectivement indiquer que si Wright n’était pas un agent payé, il était néanmoins un « informateur » volontaire, croyant servir les intérêts de sa communauté, notamment face au péril rouge. Défroqué du PC américain depuis 1942, il aurait développé une haine névrotique du communisme. James Campbell contredit cette version et affirme que Wright lui même était surveillé par le FBI (l’un n’empêche pas l’autre !) et qu’il a souvent été empêché de voyager, lui aussi.

      Richard Wright ; Daemonic Genius : A Portrait of the Man, A Critical Look at His Work.
      Margaret Walker, New York : Amistad (1988)

      The Problematic Texts of Richard Wright
      James Tuttleton in The Critical Response to Richard Wright, edited by Robert Butler, Westport, CT : Greenwood Press (1995)

      Richard Wright : The Life and Times
      Hazel Rowley, Owl Books (2001)

      Exiled in Paris : Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Samuel Beckett, and Others on the Left Bank
      James Campbell, Berkeley : University of California Press (2003)

      Ca me rappelle aussi l’ #Affaire_Gibson qui marque l’apogée de la paranoïa de la Guerre froide, et ravage le groupe d’expatriés noirs installé dans les années 50 à #Paris et qui fréquente le #Café_de_Tournon, en mêlant l’indépendance algérienne et la situation aux États-Unis. Richard Wright, #Richard_Gibson et #William_Gardner_Smith se soupçonnent tous mutuellement de faire partie de services secrets français ou américains. Richard Wright lui même écrira aussi un roman-a-clef non publié sur cette histoire, Island of Hallucination.

      Black American Writers in France, 1840–1980
      Michel Fabre, Urbana and Chicago : U of Illinois P (1991)

      Richard Wright’s "Island of Hallucination" and the "Gibson Affair"
      Richard Gibson, Modern Fiction Studies, 51:896-920 (2005)

      Richard Wright’s Interrogation of Negritude : Revolutionary Implications for Pan Africanism and Liberation
      Kunnie, Julian, Journal of Pan African Studies, 4:1-23 (2012)

      #USA #négritude

  • Start with the Map: David Mitchell on Imaginary Cartography | The New Yorker


    The book that first set me on my way was “Watership Down,” by Richard Adams. I was nine years old when I read it. Basking in its afterglow, I plotted an epic novel about a small group of fugitive otters—one of whom was clairvoyant—who get driven from their home by the ravages of building work, and swim up the River Severn to its source, in Wales, where they establish an egalitarian community called Ottertopia.

    As any child author can testify, you can’t begin until you’ve got the map right. So I traced the course of the River Severn from my dad’s road atlas onto Sellotaped-together sheets of A4. Along the looping river, I drew woods, hills, and marshes in the style of the maps in “The Lord of the Rings”: blobs with sticks for trees, bumps for hills, and tufts for marshes. What about toponyms, though? Should I use existing human names, or make up Otterese words for places like Worcester or Upton-upon-Severn? Would otters have words for motorways or factories or bridges? Why would they? Why wouldn’t they? Never mind, I’ll sort that out later. I spent hours on that map, plotting the otters’ progress with a dotted red line and enjoying how nonchalant I’d be at school the day after my unprecedented Booker Prize victory. I’m sure I managed at least half a page of the novel before I got distracted.

    #cartographie #esquisses #recherche #cartographie_manuelle #cartographie_imaginaire #imaginaire

  • W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits


    The colorful charts, graphs, and maps presented at the 1900 Paris Exposition by famed sociologist and black rights activist W. E. B. Du Bois offered a view into the lives of black Americans, conveying a literal and figurative representation of “the color line.” From advances in education to the lingering effects of slavery, these prophetic infographics—beautiful in design and powerful in content—make visible a wide spectrum of black experience.

    W. E. B. Du Bois’s Data Portraits collects the complete set of graphics in full color for the first time, making their insights and innovations available to a contemporary imagination. As Maria Popova wrote, these data portraits shaped how “Du Bois himself thought about sociology, informing the ideas with which he set the world ablaze three years later in The Souls of Black Folk.”

    #WEB_Du_Bois #visualisation #états-Unis #précurseurs #cartoexperiment

  • City of Women - The New Yorker


    Juste parce que je viens de rencontrer la cartographe #Moly_Roy qui a eu l’idée de cette carte et qui l’a mise en scène, et que la carte est super.

    What if the New York City subway map paid homage to some of the city’s great women? (Hover over the map to magnify.) Cartography by Molly Roy, from “Nonstop Metropolis,” by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. Subway Route Symbols ® Metropolitan Transportation Authority

    “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” is a song James Brown recorded in a New York City stu­dio in 1966, and, whether you like it or not, you can make the case that he’s right. Walking down the city streets, young women get harassed in ways that tell them that this is not their world, their city, their street; that their freedom of movement and association is liable to be undermined at any time; and that a lot of strangers expect obedience and attention from them. “Smile,” a man orders you, and that’s a concise way to say that he owns you; he’s the boss; you do as you’re told; your face is there to serve his life, not express your own. He’s someone; you’re no one.

    #visibilité_des_femmes #new_york