November 19, 2011

Lolita Overwritten

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I recently had a disturbing revelation. A friend and I were talking about the book Lolita, which I read about 15 years ago. It seemed as if we had read different books. The broad structure of the plot was the same for both of us, but some important details were different. Aged 12, their Lolita was substantially younger than the girl around 15 I remembered. I recalled Humbert being pathetic and occasionally cruel, but not pathologically predatory – unlike Quilty. My friend pointed out a number of plot points I didn’t recollect at all to contradict me. Double checking against the book demonstrated they were completely right.

Usually I have a very good memory of plots. It was a little concerning how wrong I was. Then I realised I was remembering the 1962 Kubrick film. In my mind the book had been completely overwritten by the less confrontational movie (so it could reach a wider audience) and I had no notion this had occurred. Quilty looked like Peter Sellers; Lolita was 14, but played by an actress that looked older. It is like I never read the book at all. Has this happened with other memories too – I have no idea.


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