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The real Lolita

posted by Jason Kottke   Nov 20, 2014

Real Lolita

Near the end of Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov writes:

Had I done to Dolly, perhaps, what Frank Lasalle, a fifty-year-old mechanic, had done to eleven-year-old Sally Horner in 1948?

For years, no one picked up on the fact that Sally Horner really was abducted by a man named Frank La Salle in 1948 and the crime was a definite influence on Nabokov in writing Lolita, not until Alexander Dolinin suggested it in 2005. Sarah Weinman explores the connection in Hazlitt.

On her way home from school the next day, though, the man sought her out again. Without warning, the rules had changed: Sally had to go with him to Atlantic City — the government insisted. She’d have to convince her mother he was the father of two school friends, inviting her to a seashore vacation. He would take care of the rest with a phone call and a convincing appearance at the Camden bus depot.

His name was Frank La Salle, and he was no FBI agent — rather, he was the sort G-men wanted to drive off the streets, though Sally didn’t learn that until it was far too late. It took 21 months to break free of him, after a cross-country journey from Camden, New Jersey, to San Jose, California. That five-cent notebook didn’t just alter Sally Horner’s own life, though: it reverberated throughout the culture, and in the process, irrevocably changed the course of 20th-century literature.

(via @DavidGrann)