«Apart from a welcome flurry of interest in the work, the only thing this relic will effect, I fear, is the slight exacerbation of what is already a problem from hell. It is infernal, for me, because I bow to no one in my love for this great and greatly inspiring genius. And yet Nabokov, in his decline, imposes on even the keenest reader a horrible brew of piety, literal-mindedness, vulgarity and philistinism. Nothing much, in Laura, qualifies as a theme (ie, as a structural or at least a recurring motif). But we do notice the appearance of a certain Hubert H Hubert (a reeking Englishman who slobbers over a pre-teen's bed), we do notice the 24-year-old vamp with 12-year-old breasts ("pale squinty nipples and firm form"), and we do notice the fevered dream about a juvenile love ("her little bottom, so smooth, so moonlit"). In other words, Laura joins The Enchanter (1939), Lolita (1955), Ada (1970), Transparent Things (1972), and Look at the Harlequins! (1974) in unignorably concerning itself with the sexual despoiliation of very young girls.
Six fictions: six fictions, two or perhaps three of which are spectacular masterpieces. You will, I hope, admit that the hellish problem is at least Nabokovian in its complexity and ticklishness. For no human being in the history of the world has done more to vivify the cruelty, the violence, and the dismal squalor of this particular crime. The problem, which turns out to be an aesthetic problem, and not quite a moral one, has to do with the intimate malice of age.»
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