The Two Lolitas
Does it ring a bell? The first-person narrator, a cultivated man of middle age, looks back on the story of an amour fou. It all starts when, traveling abroad, he takes a room as a lodger. The moment he sees the daughter of the house, he is lost. She is a pre-teen, whose charms instantly enslave him. Heedless of her age, he becomes intimate with her. In the end she dies, and the narratormarked by her foreverremains alone. The name of the girl supplies the title of the story: Lolita. We know the girl and her story, and we know the title. But the author was Heinz von Eschwege, whose tale of Lolita appeared in 1916 under the pseudonym Heinz von Lichberg, forty years before Nabokov's celebrated novel took the world by storm. Von Lichberg later became a prominent journalist in the Nazi era, and his youthful work faded from view. The Two Lolitas uncovers a remarkable series of parallels between the two works and their authors - too many to make coincidence the most likely explanation. How did Vladimir Nabokov know of von Lichberg's long out-of-print tale? And why might he, the grand master of reference, want to draw our attention to such an unremarkable author?Maar's extraordinary literary detective story casts new light on the making of one of the most influential works of the twentieth century. This new edition includes a preface by best-selling German novelist Daniel Kehlmann and an interview with the author, conducted by Kehlmann, in which Maar reveals that since writing the book, he has unveiled what might be the final piece of the puzzle.
Michael Maar has taught at Stanford University and is a member of two German academies. A leading literary critic, he now lives in Berlin.