Publishing Lolita

The controversy surrounding the Paris edition of Lolita made potential American publishers nervous. Although many critics had praised the book, no publisher in America was willing to risk fines or jail, and so Lolita did not appear in the United States until 1958—three years after its publication in Paris.

Morris Bishop, Nabokov's close friend and Chairman of Cornell's Department of Romance Literature, found the delay to be of great benefit to all concerned:

When Lolita appeared in 1955, in Paris, under the imprint of a pornographic press, and was soon banned..., my disquiet sharply increased. I could see in my mind's eye a flood of angry letters from alumni to the President of Cornell: 'Is this the kind of scoundrel you have at Cornell teaching my daughter?'... The explosion I feared did not occur. But I suspect it would have occurred in 1955; the three-years delay in American publication saved Vladimir, and Cornell, and me, from a noisy and perhaps disastrous confrontation.

Vladimir Nabokov. Lolita. New York: Putnam's, 1958. [view]

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