What's All This Then?

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What's All This Then?

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by Vladimir Nabokov

Field-Tested by Jenny Jacobi

in Telluride, Colorado

Even being the bibliophile that I am, even having majored in literatures of two languages, and even having taken a Russian Literature course in college, I had yet to read Nabokov’s Lolita upon graduating. So, when I moved to Telluride, Colorado after finishing school, I was very much looking forward to reading it along with whatever else I wanted, on my schedule and according to my whims.

Telluride’s inestimable beauty would evolve the drab experience of reading even the most soulless work into one of wonder and transcendence, so great is the region’s effect on even the most rote tasks. Thus with great anticipation and elevated mindset, I finally began Lolita. Nabokov’s ability to generate empathy for the antihero, despite the character’s immoral proclivities, is remarkable in and of itself. As I read, though, I also found it uncannily easy to slip into the work’s setting. I particularly remember the scene in which Nabokov describes the sound of school children drifting up the mountain from the valley below to Humbert Humbert’s trained ears. As I had perceived the very same sensation myself on the mountain pass behind and above town, placing myself within the action and visualizing the scene required no stretch of the imagination. This congruence proved true again and again as I continued to follow Humbert and Lolita on their journey; with each turn of the page, it was as though I was living the novel in some parallel universe.

Reading Lolita was a sumptuous and evocative undertaking unlike any encounter with literature I have had, even more so than reading Ulysses on June 16th, 2004 in Dublin. I thought perhaps the novel’s success in vividness of setting could be attributed to Nabokov’s consummate way with words. Having finished the novel and remaining perplexed, I turned to the afterword and discovered the actual explanation for my intense sensory identification with the novel: Nabokov lived in Telluride while writing it. Dolores, nicknamed Lolita, was named after a town just an hour away, a town through which I had driven many times on my way into the Southwest. This discovery in no way diminished my high regard for Nabokov’s talent, though; rather, it generated a profound awe of how the coincidental conspiration of time, place, and circumstance engendered such a heightened literary experience, one I am unlikely to have the good fortune of feeling again.

Jenny Jacobi is an aspiring writer, photographer, and whirling dervish, and resides in Austin, Texas when not traveling elsewhere. Her photography can be found here and a tiny slice of her writing can be found here.

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