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Status Report: Nabokov has broadly hinted that Humbert Humbert’s obsession with “nymphets” is a result of his abortive relationship with his childhood sweetheart Annabel. As corroborating evidence, I would point to this moment in chapter 26, when HH picks up Lolita from camp:
I felt the blood rush to my head as I heard her respiration and voice behind me. She arrived dragging and bumping her heavy suitcase. "Hi!" she said, and stood still, looking at me with sly, glad eyes, her soft lips parted in a slightly foolish but wonderfully endearing smile.
She was thinner and taller, and for a second it seemed to me her face was less pretty than the mental imprint I had cherished for more than a month: her cheeks looked hollowed and too much lentigo camouflaged her rosy rustic features; and that first impression (a very narrow human interval between two tiger heartbeats) carried the clear implication that all widower Humbert had to do, wanted to do, or would do, was to give this wan-looking though sun-colored little orphan au yeux battus (and even those plumbaceous umbrae under her eyes bore freckles) a sound education, a healthy and happy girlhood, a clean home, nice girl-friends of her age among whom (if the fates deigned to repay me) I might find, perhaps, a pretty little Magdlein for Herr Doktor Humbert alone. But "in a wink," as the Germans say, the angelic line of conduct was erased, and I overtook my prey (time moves ahead of our fancies!), and she was my Lolita again--in fact, more of my Lolita than ever.
You can almost see HH sculpting the the actual (and inevitably disappointing) girl into the chimeric object of his desire, chipping away at those things that don’t fit his vision, slapping on more clay and frantically molding incongruities until they are subsumed by his fantasy.
Earlier HH provided a fairly convolution rationale for why he calls Dolores something that has only a passing resemblance to her real name; passages like this provide a far more convincing explanation: because Dolores and Lolita happen to be two entirely different girls, one real, the other ideal.
Later, I found myself almost unable to begin chapter 28. And then again chapter 29, when Nabokov strung us along for 5 pages. So great was the tension, the “oh god, where is he going to go with this”, that I found the scene that followed–Lolita fitfully sleeping in bed, HH beside her, terrified to move–to be laugh out loud funny. That’s a little something the French call the douche ecossaise: the sudden shift between horror and humor–two opposing emotional “temperatures”–each heightening the effect of the other.
I had another visitor--friend Beale, the fellow who eliminated my wife. Stodgy and solemn, looking like a kind of assistant executioner, with his bulldog jowls, small black eyes, thickly rimmed glasses and conspicuous nostrils, he was ushered in by John who then left us, closing the door upon us, with the utmost tact. Suavely saying he had twins in my stepdaughter's class, my grotesque visitor unrolled a large diagram he had made of the accident. It was, as my stepdaughter would have put it, "a beaut," with all kinds of impressive arrows and dotted lines in varicolored inks...
With his hummingbird pencil deftly and delicately flying from one point to another, Frederick demonstrated his absolute innocence and the recklessness of my wife: while he was in the act of avoiding the dog, she slipped on the freshly watered asphalt and plunged forward whereas she should have flung herself not forward but backward (Fred showed how by a jerk of his padded shoulder). I said it was certainly not his fault, and the inquest upheld my view. Breathing violently though jet-black tense nostrils, he shook his head and my hand; then, with an air of perfect savoir vivre and gentlemanly generosity, he offered to pay the funeral-home expenses. He expected me to refuse his offer. With a drunken sob of gratitude I accepted it. This took him aback. Slowly, incredulously, he repeated what he had said. I thanked him again, even more profusely than before.
Words Looked Up: Lost my word list.