Paris: The Olympia Press, 1958. 2nd Printing. 2 vols., 12mo, publisher's green paper wraps printed in black and white.
"You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style." Stated second printing of the Russian master's infamous novel, a lyrical pedophiliac road noir that charts the dark underbelly of the American postwar boom. Despite a respectable CV of published work and a prestigious professorship at Cornell, Nabokov worked in relative obscurity until Lolita's publication in 1955 by Parisian emigré Olympia Press, whereupon it was championed by Graham Greene and subsequently met with sales-boosting controversy. Olympia's maverick publisher Maurice Girodias, deemed a smut-peddler by his detractors, was a fervent defender of freedom of speech and dedicated himself to the fight against censorship, particularly in the case of Lolita. This 1958 second printing contains the first appearance of Girodias's account of the novel's checkered early history and his spirited defense: "Protecting the mental health of children is one matter; suppressing works of literature for the naive reason that they contain references to sexual practices and that they might fall into the hands of children, is quite another. Children are less likely to be affected by reading Lady Chatterley's Lover, let us say, than by the heavy atmosphere of adult hypocrisy which shrouds sexual themes in unhealthy glamour." Ironically, despite Nabokov's fervent wish that Lolita not achieve a mere succès de scandale, it was Girodias's shrewd machinations against the US Customs Service that paved the way for the book's bestseller status in America and Nabokov's celebrity, to which Nabokov responded by repeatedly attempting to abrogate his contract with Girodias, what the writer himself referred to as "lolitigation." Their relationship soured quickly, and it appears that this second Olympia printing, issued in November of 1958, a few months after the first US edition, was Girodias's attempt to secure for himself what he saw as his rightful legacy as the book's courageous first publisher. Though he was never able to assuage Nabokov's peevishness, Girodias continued to defend its publication throughout the world on moral and aesthetic grounds, though he indulged in the pleasure of aggrievement in a later essay: "Many years spent in this profession, publishing, teach you that no great writer can be less than a monster of egomania. And that seems indeed to be an absolute requisite: literary genius can only derive from superhuman concentration – and who cares if a few people are abused and hurt along the way?" ("A Sad, Ungraceful History of Lolita," 1965). Issued as number 66 in the publisher's Traveller's Companion series. Spines lightly toned and creased, light edgewear only to wraps. Near fine. Item #2273