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Culture news, 31.03.2004 12:33

Nabokov was no plagiarist, say his admirers

Nabokov was no plagiarist, say his admirers Admirers of celebrated St. Petersburg-born writer Vladimir Nabokov have dismissed suggestions he may not have created the character of Lolita, but that Nabokov copied the idea from a forgotten German novella written in 1916.

In interviews published this month in the German media, literary scholar Michael Maar said Heinz von Eschwege's novella "Lolita" has too many parallels with Nabokov's 1956 novel for the similarities to be coincidence.

Eschwege's 18-page novella tells of a young charmer Lolita, seducing a much older man, who nearly loses his mind over the affair with the girl, he said."The name is the same, the title, the fact that it is written in the first person," British newspaper the Telegraph quotes Maar as saying. "There is a close description of first seeing Lolita, looking into her eyes and seeing she was more than a girl, more than a child. The narrators are lodgers and both have passionate affairs and then Lolita dies."

Tatyana Ponomaryova, who runs the Nabokov museum in St. Petersburg, said she had not read the German "Lolita," but that the odds were very low, that Nabokov had read it.

"There is no indication that the two writers were acquainted, but there is proof that Vladimir Nabokov wasn't interested in contemporary German literature," she said. "More importantly, his German, while sufficient for him to communicate with, was too limited to allow him read such literature."

In an interview with newspaper Gazeta published on March 22, Nabokov's son Dmitry said the theme of a young temptress seducing an elderly man was mentioned in another of his father's novels, "Dar", which was published long before "Lolita".

Olga Voronina, official representative of the Nabokov estate in Russia, said she did not believe the two stories have any connection to each other. The discovery of a German Lolita has made such a splash because so far, there have been more scandals about other people plagiarizing Nabokov than the other way around, she added. "Pia Perra's "Lo's Diary" and Boris Nosik's "Pioneer Lolita" are the first examples that come to mind," she said. Put simply, Nabokov's Lolita is such a prominent work of literature that any work of art with the same title cannot pass unnoticed.

Another reason behind the media fuss around the topic is that Nabokov scholarship is famously focused on tracing down other writers' "influence" on him, she said.

"There are papers and even books written on Nabokov and Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Poe, Carroll, Thomas Mann, and scores of others," Voronina said. "But I doubt there will ever be a book on Nabokov and Heinz von Eschwege."

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