EARLY ON IN Lolita Humbert Humbert lovingly reminisces about the nymphets who most tormented him during his life in Paris:
Once a perfect little beauty in a tartan frock, with a clatter, put her heavily armed foot near me upon the bench to dip her slim bare arms into me and tighten the strap of her roller skate, and I dissolved in the sun, with my book for a fig leaf, as her auburn ringlets fell all over her skinned knee, and the shadow of leaves I shared pulsated and melted on her radiant limb next to my chameleonic cheek.
But, it turns out, Humbert isn't the only one to have drooled over this particular roller-skatered goddess, for it was she who, about fifteen years earlier, drove to a similar despair the prototype Humbert of Nabokov's Volshebnik - literally 'magician' or 'conjuror' - the short story in which 'the first little throb' of Lolita was initially developed in 1939, when Nabokov was still living in Europe, and composing mainly in Russian.
For unimaginable reasons, however, Nabokov was not pleased with his story. He even thought he had destroyed it sometime after moving to America the following year, but in fact the manuscript turned