Opening Lines of Lolita
This recording comes from the PEN America Archives. Consisting of over 1800 hours of audio and video material, the PEN America Archives showcase the intersection of literature and free expression through the voices of some of the most prominent writers, intellectuals, and activists from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities and in collaboration with Princeton University, the archives not only illustrate the institutional trajectory of PEN America, but also highlight the voices and words of poets, essayists, novelists, and others who resist the infringement of free expression. The entirety of the PEN America Archives will be made available online to the public this summer.
“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”
Today, we look back at the Centenary Celebration of Vladimir Nabokov (April 15, 1999) that celebrated his birth. In this archival recording, James Mason reads from one of the most recognizable beginnings of twentieth-century literature.