The Enchanter Hardcover – Oct 1986
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From Publishers Weekly
A novella written in Russian when Nabokov lived in Paris in 1939, The Enchanter resurfaced among his papers 20 years later. Nabokov described it then as "the first little throb of Lolita " and said its title anticipated the "enchanted hunter" motif in the later novel. Here it refers to the lecherous, ironic, middle-aged protagonist who woos an unappetizing widow to get access to her nymphet daughter. But his phallic "magic wand" (paralleled by his antique coral-headed walking stick) transforms wolfish lust into the dream of a fairy idyll, with overtones of Lear/Cordelia and Little Red Riding Hood, to produce an unexpectedly surreal effectand a denouement strikingly different from that of Lolita. Narrated in the third person, the novella has the remoteness of a tale, with its nameless characters and vaguely foreign ambienceunlike the novelistically specific Lolita, rooted in Americanness and told by its main character, Humbert Humbert. The Enchanter is entertaining independent of its Lolita connection. It is arch, delicious and beautifully written. As translator, the author's son writes an endearingly fussy afterword thatrecalls Nabokov's own self-parodying penchant for the long footnote.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
The Enchanter is a real findthe "pre- Lolita novella" Nabokov wrote in Paris in 1939 and subsequently lost. Rediscovered two decades later, it has only now been translated by the author's son. Just as in the later masterpiece, a pedophile marries a widow to be near her daughter; when the mother dies, the way is clear. Yet The Enchanter stands on its own as a bright, brief (some would say heartless) excursion into the mind of a madman, a marvel of potent imagery and taut storytelling. More's the pity then that Dmitri Nabokov has used the occasion to write an off-putting afterword aimed as much at settling literary scores as elucidating the text. Otherwise, highly recommended. Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id.
Copyright 1986 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
The main character is a middle-aged, respectable, well-off man, living alone and lonely. He also has a distinct "liking" for teenage girls who are just hitting adolescence, but doesn't dare to try anything. One in particular catches his notice, a coltish girl on roller skates who talks to him at times and gains his affection and lust.
He proposes to the girl's widowed mother, who is terminally ill and pretty crabby; he has no interest in his "monstrous bride" but it's the only way he can get to the girl. The wife's condition gets worse over the following months, and she dies. And the man choreographs his own downfall as he plots to seduce his new stepdaughter...
The mind of a pedophile is a disgusting thing, and Nabokov makes no excuses for it. "The Enchanter" is a pretty straightforward story in comparison, without a lot of twists or surprises. It's far from a bad book, but it's not a terribly good one either. It's fairly ordinary, especially when compared to modern classic "Lolita."
The high point of "The Enchanter" is the rambling thoughts of the lead character as the book opens. Then it dips down and proceeds more or less steadily. Nabokov's lush language and complex symbolism aren't really very present here. His writing is blander and more straightforward, with a lack of polish.
The characters are given no names -- they're just the man, the girl, the wife.Read more ›
Other reviews have pointed out that Nabokov was treading a narrow path between literature and pornography, and I could see their point. How anyone can find children sexually attractive is utterly beyond me. However, I think that the first presumption in literature should be one of tolerance - it would be a mistake, in my view, to dismiss "The Enchanter" as a work of pornography. It isn't - yet it's very challenging.
Nabokov examines the mind of a paedophile - in particular his inability to differentiate between fantasy and reality until it is too late. I would have been worried if I had not found the subject matter disturbing. What it did do was make me reflect why I found this novella so challenging, and why I found, for example, Thomas Mann's "Death in Venice" (which deals with a dying man's infatuation with a boy) so moving. I'll need to re-read "Death in Venice" to reflect more on this, but I think it's because in "Death in Venice" the attraction to the boy was the means by which von Aschenbach faced his own imminent demise, and realised that he'd denied his true nature throughout his life. There was no, as such, sexual possibility.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Like many posthumous works, this first attempt by Nabokov to portray nymphet-love is more interesting to understand the author than as a reading in itself. Read morePublished on June 22 2001 by Diego Delizia
Definitivamente, si un autor decide no publicar una obra en vida, sus herederos (por más dinero que quieran o necesiten, por más avaros que puedan ser)... Read morePublished on Feb. 16 2001 by Rigoberto Rodriguez
The diagram of approach and recognition, followed almost immediately by annihilation, a peculiar position occupied by the novella as expanded short story or curtailed novel.Published on Jan. 10 2001 by Christopher Mulrooney
No one can write about "The Enchanter" without mentioning the fact that it is the precursor to "Lolita". Read morePublished on Aug. 8 2000 by Diane
The Enchanter is clearly an exploratory piece of writing - it has a certain juvenile, rough feel that makes the reader certain that it is the beginning of an inquiry rather than... Read morePublished on April 29 1999
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