Sunday, August 21, 2016

Famous Ephebophile: Lord Byron



I (temporarily) abandoned MacCarthy's Byron Life and Legend on page 217 for Gilot and Lake's Life with Picasso (Gilot met Picasso when she was twenty-one, and he was sixty-two.) specifically because MacCarthy didn't cover Byron's writing process. However, I did cull that Byron was an (acting) ephebophile. 

Initially, Byron's affection was for Lady Oxford but it "transferred from the mother to the daughters, beautiful, well read, [and] precocious children". Byron was "bowled over by attractions of the eldest daughter, Lady Jane Harley, then sixteen, describing her in his dairy as 'a delightful creature, but un pea libre'."

"[B]ut his favorite was her younger sister Lady Charlotte, at eleven, was at the age of promise which most moved him, the child on the edge of puberty."


Lady Charlotte as Ianthe

"Lady Oxford's daughter Charlotte is the subject of the famous and much anthologised five stanzas "To Ianthe," fragile flower of the narcissus [...] In these stanzas [...] Byron celebrates the girl's evasive charm and addresses the painful ambiguities of their relationship:"


"To Ianthe"

Not in those climes where I have late been straying,
Though Beauty long hath there been matchless deemed,
Not in those visions to the heart displaying
Forms which it sighs but to have only dreamed,
Hath aught like thee in Truth or Fancy seemed:
Nor, having seen thee, shall I vainly seek
To paint those charms which varied as they beamed—
To such as see thee not my words were weak;
To those who gaze on thee what language could they speak?

Ah! may'st thou ever be what now thou art,
Nor unbeseem the promise of thy Spring—
As fair in form, as warm yet pure in heart,
Love's image upon earth without his wing,
And guileless beyond Hope's imagining!
And surely she who now so fondly rears
Thy youth, in thee, thus hourly brightening,
Beholds the Rainbow of her future years,
Before whose heavenly hues all Sorrow disappears.

Young Peri of the West! — 'tis well for me
My years already doubly number thine;
My loveless eye unmoved may gaze on thee,
And safely view thy ripening beauties shine;
Happy, I ne'er shall see them in decline;
Happier, that, while all younger hearts shall bleed,
Mine shall escape the doom thine eyes assign
To those whose admiration shall succeed,
But mixed with pangs to Love's even loveliest hours decreed.

Oh! let that eye, which, wild as the Gazelle's,
Now brightly bold or beautifully shy,
Wins as it wanders, dazzles where it dwells,
Glance o'er this page, nor to my verse deny
That smile for which my breast might vainly sigh
Could I to thee be ever more than friend:
This much, dear Maid, accord; nor question why
To one so young my strain I would commend,
But bid me with my wreath one matchless Lily blend.

Such is thy name with this my verse entwined;
And long as kinder eyes a look shall cast
On Harold's page, Ianthe's here enshrined
Shall thus be first beheld, forgotten last:
My days once numbered — should this homage past
Attract thy fairy fingers near the Lyre
Of him who hailed thee loveliest, as thou wast—
Such is the most my Memory may desire;
Though more than Hope can claim, could Friendship less require?

Byron commissioned for Richard Westall to paint the nymphet's portrait, and he shared "I should love [Charlotte] forever if she could always be only eleven years old [...]" 

However, it appears that Byron's affections went too far. "Lady O[xford] detected him one day in an attempt upon her daughter, then a child of thirteen, & was enraged with him to the greatest degree."

Sunday, July 17, 2016

[UPDATED] Was Nabokov a Hebephile\Ephebophile?


Readers of this blog are most likely familiar with Nabokov's Lolita, but they may not be familiar with his six other books that share a similar theme of hebephilia\ephebophilia with Lolita:

The Enchanter 
Laughter in the Dark 
Ada or Ador: A Family Chronicle
Transparent Things
Look at the Harlequins!
The Original of Laura



And some of Nabokov's published poetry contains the theme of hebephilia\ephebophilia. In “Lilith”, which can be found in his Selected Poems (2012), he wrote:
                           
I died. The sycamores and shutters
along the dusty street were teased
by torrid Aeolus.

I walked,
and fauns walked, and in every faun
god Pan I seemed to recognize:
Good. I must be in Paradise.

Shielding her face and to the sparkling sun
showing a russet armpit, in a doorway
there stood a naked little girl.
She had a water-lily in her curls
and was as graceful as a woman. Tenderly
her nipples bloomed, and I recalled
the springtime of my life on earth,
when through the alders on the river brink
so very closely I could watch
the miller’s youngest daughter as she stepped
out of the water, and she was all golden,
with a wet fleece between her legs.

And now, still wearing the same dress coat
that I had on when killed last night,
with a rake’s predatory twinkle,
toward my Lilith I advanced.
She turned upon me a green eye
over her shoulder, and my clothes
were set on fire and in a trice
dispersed like ashes.

In the room behind
one glimpsed a shaggy Greek divan,
on a small table wine, pomegranates,
and some lewd frescoes covering the wall.
With two cold fingers childishly
she took me by my emberhead [пламя – i.e., erect penis]:
“now come along with me,” she said.

Without inducement, without effort,
Just with the slowest of pert glee,
like wings she gradually opened
her pretty knees in front of me.
And how enticing, and how merry,
her upturned face! And with a wild
lunge of my loins I penetrated
into an unforgotten child.
Snake within snake, vessel in vessel,
smooth-fitting part, I moved in her,
through the ascending itch forefeeling
unutterable pleasure [восторг – i.e., approaching orgasm] stir.
But suddenly she lightly flinched,
retreated, drew her legs together,
and grasped a veil and twisted it
around herself up to the hips,
and full of strength, at half the distance
to rapture [блаженству - i.e., orgasm], I was left with nothing.
I hurtled forward. A strange wind
caused me to stagger. “Let me in!”
I shouted, noticing with horror
that I stood again outside in the dust
and that obscenely bleating youngsters
were staring at my pommeled lust [булаву – mace i.e., erect penis].
“Let me come in!” And the goat-hoofed,
copper-curled crowd increased. “Oh, let me in,”
I pleaded, “otherwise I shall go mad!”
The door stayed silent, and for all to see
writhing in agony I spilled my seed
and knew abruptly that I was in Hell.
(The words in the brackets are from Maxim D. Shrayer's Russian Literature journal article "Nabokov's Sexography".)

Nabokov shared in Poems and Problems that “Lilith” was composed “to amuse a friend.” In Pniniad, Marc Szeftel, whom many claim was the model for Nabokov's Pnin, shared an anecdote that was related to him by Gleb Struve, an associate of Nabokov:


“Struve tells about a private evening devoted to Nabokov's erotical (or even pornographical) poetry, read by him. Of these poems only “Lilith” has been published in N.'s 'Poems and Problems'...This reading happened when N. was not yet married...What was on young Nabokov's mind before he married Vera, I do not know. Probably, quite a few frivolous things, to expect from a very handsome, young Russian.”

Maurice Couturier revealed in Nabokov's Eros and the Poetics of Desire that different versions of last six lines of  “Lilith” were used "...throughout Nabokov's novels which may suggest that he, as an author, was probably reenacting an event belonging to his own past or a fantasy he had nursed."

Brian Boyd shared in Vladimir Nabokov,The American Years that when Nabokov taught at Stanford his evenings were often spent attending formal parties and playing chess with Henry Lanz, the head of the Slavic department. Nabokov found Lanz "...delicate, cultured and talented." In addition, Nabokov found that Lanz was a nympholept (i.e., a person seized with a frenzy of erotic emotion) who would "...drive off on the weekends, neat and dapper in his blazer, to orgiastic parties with nymphets." Now the question is, did Nabokov ever attend any of those parties with Lanz? 

And who was one of Nabokov's favorite painters? Based on my leading question, you may have been able to guess none other than Balthus. Nabokov shared in In Strong Opinions, "The aspects of Picasso that I emphatically dislike are the sloppy products of his old age. I also loathe old Matisse. A contemporary artist I do admire very much, though not only because he paints Lolita-like creatures, is Balthus." Furthermore, Eric Naiman wrote in Nabokov, Perversely that a painting in Pnin, "Hoecker's 'Girl with a Cat'", may have been a reference to Balthus' "Jeune Fille au Chat".

Balthus' "Jeune Fille au Chat"

Moreover, what painting did the New York Times Book Review choose to grace Elizabeth Janeway's August 17, 1958 review of Lolita? It was none other than Balthus’ Les Beaux Jours [Golden Days, 1944-49]. 


Balthus’ Les Beaux Jours, 1944-49 and
NYT Book Review
of Lolita "The Tragedy of Man Driven by Desire"


Nabokov was asked in a 1964 Playboy interview, "Are there any contemporary authors you do enjoy reading?" Nabokov replied, "I do have a few favorites—for example, Robbe-Grillet and Borges. How freely and gratefully one breathes in their marvelous labyrinths! I love their lucidity of thought, the purity and poetry, the mirage in the mirror."

Unsurprisingly, Robbe-Grillet writes about nymphets too. Here's an exemplary excerpt from his Recollections of the Golden Triangle [French: Souvenirs du Triangle d'Or]:

To celebrate her 17th birthday, Caroline's father took a whole box at the Opera House. Caroline was commanded to face the stage while straddling two armless red-velvet chairs before her father "...pressed himself shamelessly against her buttocks in order to caress her in greater comfort...The insidious fingers are no longer satisfied with stroking...They pass back and forth in wave after wave, tirelessly, over the bivalvular lips...One tiny, fragile rock resists and stiffens..."

Joyce Milton shared in her book,Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin, that Chaplin acknowledged, “I had a violent crush on a girl only ten or twelve. I have always been in love with young girls [...]”  Interestingly, Barbara Wyllie wrote in "'My Age of Innocence Girl' - Humbert, Chaplin, Lita and Lo" that Nabokov was influence by Chaplin. For example, there's a reference to Chaplin's toothbrush mustache in Lolita.

And what about Aleksandr Pushkin, who was one Nabokov's favorites poets. The Paris Review revealed that Nabokov spent two months in Cambridge working on the English translation and commentary of Eugene Onegin for over 17 hours per day. In the novel in verse, the poet Lensky invited 26-year-old dandy Eugene Onegin to dinner with his fiancée, the nymphet Olga, and her family. During the dinner Tatyana, Olga's 13-year-old older sister, became very infatuated with Onegin but her innocent love for the older man was (initially) unrequited. 

Wait. Let's not forget about Nabokov's short stories. According to Naiman, Nabokov wrote “Skazka” in 1926 before it was published in Rul', a Berlin emigre newspaper that was founded by his father. In the story, on his ride to work, Erwin habitually gazes through the tram's window and picks girls for his imaginary harem. However, the young man gains the opportunity for his dreams to come true after he meets Frau Monde, a female Devil who promises Erwin that he can have all the girls he wants upon “cushions and rugs” in “a villa with a walled garden” but that it's “essential and final” that he selects an odd number of girls between noon to midnight. 

The next day Erwin starts collecting slave girls. Here's a partial list:

A maiden in a white dress with chestnut hair and palish lips who was playing with her “fat shaggy pup”

“[T]wo young ladies-sisters, or even twins...Both were small and slim...with saucy eyes and painted lips.” Erwin referred to the Twins as “Gay, painted, young things.”

A lady who “...was lovely, hatless, bobhaired, with a fringe on her forehead that made her look like a boy actor in the part of a damsel.

A “beautiful in a drab, freckled way” wench who worked at a cheap restaurant that Erwin frequented on Sundays. 

A girl with gray eyes with a slight slant and a thin aquiline nose that wrinkled when she laughed

A girl at a small amusement park who wore a scarlet blouse with a bright-green skirt

Four girls in jerseys and shorts, “...magnificent legs, naked nearly up to the groin...” inside the amusement park's arcade. 

“A child of fourteen or so in a low-cut black party dress .” She was walking with a tall elderly man who was a “...famous poet, a senile swan, living all alone in a distant suburb”

I won't reveal who last girl was, but I will share her response to Erwin which was, “You ought to be ashamed of yourself...Leave me alone.” Her response was due to “...that which changes a man's life (i.e., genital) with one divine stroke...”

When Nabokov translated the story before it was published in Playboy (1974) and Details of a Sunset (1976), he aggressively titled it “A Nursery Tale” and noted in Tyrants Destroyed and Other Stories that when he was translating the story he was “...eerily startled to meet a somewhat decrepit but unmistakable Humbert escorting his nymphet in the story I wrote almost half a century ago.”



Boyd wrote in Vladimir Nabokov, The American Years that “Even some otherwise sophisticated readers supposed that he could render Humbert so vividly only because he must have had a penchant for little girls himself.” And that “Appel observed that [at seventy-five-years-old] Nabokov was definitely a viellard encore vert, not a senior citizen, and still had a keen eye for young beauty.” 

Martin Amis, who prefers the word nympholepsy to ephebophilia, wrote in a Guardian article The Problem with Nabokov that “One commonsensical caveat persists, for all our literary-critical impartiality: writers like to write about the things they like to think about.” 

Although, Andrew Field wrote in Nabokov, His Life in Art that Nabokov admitted that “perhaps” one tenth of his stories were autobiographical, that tease doesn't provide us with much help since there doesn't appear to be a way to verify which tenth is autobiographical. 

However, Alden Whitman shared in his New York Times Book Review piece announcing Nabokov’s death that Nabokov obliged, "My knowledge of nymphets is purely scholarly."
Thus, was Nabokov a hebephile\ephebophile or nympholeptic? Clearly, he was, and according to Matt Ridley's New York Time's Notable Book, The Red Queen, all men are. Consequently, maybe the question should be, was Nabokov an acting hebephile? And did he ever have an age-discrepant relationship? The answer is, we may never know.

Here's more in-depth attempt to answer the question:

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

LOOK AT THE HARLEQUINS!: From A French Nymphet to LOLITA's Doppelganger



Poirier wrote in his New York Times Book Review of Look at the Harlequins! that “After Joyce with his “portrait” of Stephen, after Proust with his “remembrance” of Marcel, there are few reasons to be surprised […] by the complicated interplay between Vladimir Nabokov and the narrator of this, his 37th book. Vadim Vadimovitch is a Russian emigré writer and a mirror image or “double” of Nabokov as man and writer” who has written his (fictional) autobiography.

In addition to Vadim and Nabokov sharing the attributes, among others, of being Russian immigrants in France before taking positions as professors in the United States, they both appear to be hebephiles. 

Vadim and Iris, his future first wife, were sunbathing on the French Riviera when Vadim spots a nymphet. “There was a child of ten or so cradling a large yellow beach ball in her bare arms. She seemed to be wearing nothing but a kind of frilly harness and a very short pleated skirt revealing her trim thighs. She was what in a later era amateurs were to call a ‘nymphet’.” As she caught my glance she gave me, over our sunny globe, a sweet lewd smile from under her auburn fringe.”  Maurice Couturier writes in Nabokov's Eros and the Poetics of Desire that Vadim is referring to Nabokov as the later era amateur.  To impress Vadim, Iris shared “At eleven or twelve […] I was as pretty as that French orphan [...] I let smelly gentlemen fondle me.” 

After Vadim moved in with Mr. and Mrs. Stepanov, he became attracted to Dolly, the Stepanov's eleven-year-old grand-daughter. Vadim wrote in his autobiography “Those were nice, nice interludes! [...] I had a box of chocolate-coated biscuits to supplement the zwiebacks and tempt my little visitor. The writing board was put aside and replaced by her folded limbs [...] she dangled one leg and bit her biscuit, to the ordinary questions one puts to a child; and then quite suddenly in the midst of our chat, she would wriggle out of my arms and make for the door as if somebody were summoning her”. Couturier wrote that Dolly “is evidently an avatar of Emmie in Invitation to a Beheading, and of Lolita herself, a true nymphet” and that Vadim “a farcical avatar of Nabokov, will wait for her to grow up before undertaking to make love to her.” 

Subsequently, Vadim becomes more and more attracted to Isabel, his twelve-year-old daughter. “One change, one gradational trend I must note, however. This was my growing awareness of her beauty. Scarcely a month after her arrival I was already at a loss to understand how she could have struck me as ‘plain.’”  The relationship between Vadim and Isabel is eerily similar to that of Humbert and Lolita except that Vadim is Isabel's biological father and unlike Humbert, he doesn't consummate his incestuous relationship. However, Couturier shared that “During his cohabitation with Bel, he is very happy and sexually aroused most of the time, but he only caresses her : 'Save for a few insignificant lapses – a few hot drops of overflowing tenderness, a gasp masked by a cough and that sort of stuff – my relations with her remained essentially innocent'”   

And the blurb for Vadim's A Kingdom by the Sea, Lolita's doppelganger, goes as follows:

Bertram, an unbalanced youth, doomed to die shortly in an asylum for the criminal insane, sells for ten dollars his ten-year-old sister Ginny to the middle-aged bachelor Al Garden, a wealthy poet who travels with the beautiful child from resort to resort through America and other countries. A state of affairs that looks at first blush--and "blush" is the right word--like a case of irresponsible perversion (described in brilliant detail never attempted before) develops by the grees [misprint] into a genuine dialogue of tender love. Garden's feelings are reciprocated by Ginny, the initial "victim" who at eighteen, a normal nymph, marries him i na warmly described religious ceremony. All seems to end honky-donky [sic!]in forever lasting bliss of a sort fit to meet the sexual demands of the most rigid, or frigid, humanitarian, had there not been running its chaotic course, in a sheef [sheaf?] of parallel lives beyond our happy couple's ken,the tragic tiny [destiny?] of Virginia Garden's inconsolable parents, Oliver and [?], whom the clever author by every means in his power, prevents from tracking their daughter Dawn [sic!!]. A Book-of-the-Decade choice.

Nabokov wrote about the sexual attraction of a step-father for his step-daughter a number of times with Lolita being his most well-known example and he continued to write about the theme until he died, which is exemplified by The Original of Laura

Monday, July 11, 2016

Nabokov's Insatiable ADA & Her Three Older Lovers



Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle is centered around an explicit incestuous affair between Ada and Van that began when they were twelve and fourteen, respectively. (For example, Van and Ada enjoyed anal sex, and Ada and Lucette, Ada's even younger sister, engaged in lipstick lesbian sex.) However, in addition to Ada's affair with her brother and sister, she had age-gap affairs with Dr. Krolik, a contributor to her larvarium, Percy de Prey, her neighbor, and Phillip Rack, her music teacher.


In terms of Dr. Krolik, Boyd annotated on ADAOnline in the afternote to chapter 8 of part 1:


"The first caterpillar mentioned as his contribution to her larvarium is a Nymphalis carmen, in allusion to Lolita and the disparity between Humbert’s age and Lolita’s, as between Krolik’s and Ada’s (she is only fourteen when Krolik dies)."


And in a May 20, 2016 post on the NABOKV-L listserve, Alexey Sklyarenko shared "In the summer of 1888, when Ada (b. July 21, 1872) is sixteen, Percy de Prey [...] is twenty-one and Phillip Rack is about thirty."


In addition to Ada's age-gap affairs, Ada's 626 pages are peppered with hebephilia\ephebophilia (The page numbers correspond to the 1969 McGraw-Hill edition):

1. Van's maternal grandmother Daria ("Dolly") Durmanov was the daughter of Prince Peter Zemski [...] Dolly, an only child, born in Bras, married in 1840, at the tender and wayward age of fifteen, General Ivan Durmanov, Commander of Yukon Fortress and peaceful country gentleman [...] p. 3


2. Demon's [Van and Ada's father.] twofold hobby was collecting old masters and young mistresses. He also liked middle-aged puns. p. 4


3. Ada and Van returned to the ground floor—this time all the way down the sumptuous staircase. Of the many ancestors along the wall, she pointed out her favorite, old Prince Vseslav Zemski (1699-1797, friend of Linnaeus and author ofFlora Ladorica, who was portrayed in rich oil holding his barely pubescent bride and her blond doll in his satin lap. p. 46


According to Boyd’s annotations, the bride is referring to Princess Sofia Temnosiniy and according to Ada’s family tree, Princess Sofia Temnosiniy was approximately fourteen-years-old when she married seventy-one-year-old Prince Zemski in 1770.


In addition, the Prince’s son, Peter Zemski, married Mary O’Reilly. Boyd wrote that “John Rea [NABOKV-L, 30 November 2004] suggests that Mary O’Reilly may also echo Mary Louise O’Murphy (or Marie-Louise or Louison Morfy or O’Morphy, 1737-1814), who became mistress to Louis XVI of France [...]. She is said both to have been [Giacomo] Casanova’s mistress first, or to have been noticed by him, and to have been at fifteen the model for [François] Boucher’s famous painting, Girl Reclining [...]”


François Boucher's Girl Reclining


Casanova shared in Histoire de ma vie that upon seeing thirteen-year-old O’Murphy in the nude, that he found her so beautiful that he commissioned a nude portrait of the nymphet.


It’s not clear how King Louis XV discovered O’Murphy. One theory is that he saw Casanova's commission and requested to see the original, and another theory is that she was recruited by Madame de Pompadour, the king’s official chief mistress. Subsequently, King Louis XV impregnated O’Murphy. However, she had a miscarriage at fifteen but gave birth at sixteen to the king’s illegitimate child.


4. Two other phenomena that she [Ada] had observed even earlier proved ridiculously misleading. She must have been about nine when that elderly gentleman, an eminent painter whom she could not and would not name, came several times to dinner at Ardis Hall[...]the celebrated old rascal who drew his diminutive nudes in-variably from behind—fig-picking, peach-buttocked nymphets straining upward, or else rock-climbing girl scouts in bursting
shorts—


"I know exactly," interrupted Van angrily, "whom you mean, and would like to place on record that even if his delicious talent is in disfavor today, Paul J. Gigment [AKA Nymphobottomus] had every right to paint schoolgirls and poolgirls from any side he pleased.Proceed." p. 117


Boyd wrote in Nabokov's Ada The Place of Consciousness that prior to Ada's affair with Van, "[t]he closet she had come to "sexual contact" was with an elderly gentleman [Paul J. Gigment], a distinguished painter [...]


From Boyd’s annotations:


A painter named “Paul G-g----,” active in the 1880s and with a keen interest in the female form, and especially the young female form, nevertheless cannot help evoking Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), who in Tahiti in 1891 took the young Teha’amana as his model and, soon, mistress [...] Only Manao tupapau (The Spirit of the Dead Watches Over Her, 1892) centers on the buttocks of a girl (Teha’amana) prone on a bed [...].


Paul Gauguin's Manao tupapau, 1892


The painterly preoccupation with pubescent girls seen from behind calls to mind Balthus (Balthazar Klossowski de Rola, 1908-2001), who was renowned for the highly ambiguous sexual charge in his paintings of adolescent girls, naked or clothed, not usually “from behind” but from angles and in poses that often accentuate crotch or buttocks [e.g., Balthus’ Nu devant la cheminée (Nude in Front of a Mantel), 1955].


Balthus’ Nu devant la cheminée (Nude in Front of a Mantel), 1955


5. An American, a certain Ivan Ivanov of Yukonsk, described as an "habitually intoxicated laborer" ("a good definition," said Ada lightly, "of the true artist"), managed somehow to impregnate—in his sleep, it was claimed by him and his huge family — his five-year-old great-granddaughter, Maria Ivanov, and, then, five years later, also got Maria's daughter, Daria, with child, in another fit of somnolence. p. 142


Boyd related in his annotations:


In England, from the 1880s, the term incest “began to be used primarily to mean sexual relations between close kin, and particularly between fathers and daughters, or brothers and sisters. . . . Reformers now pointed to a more specific and sensitive problem: the sexual abuse of girls in the congested family quarters of the large cities. When Beatrice Webb worked in a sweatshop in 1888, she was shocked to find talk of incest commonplace (perhaps missing the irony of her fellow workers). In her diary she describes a seamstress muttering to her that the girls at the next table were a bad lot. ‘Why bless you, that young woman just behind us has had three babies by her father, and another here has had one by her brother.’ . . . In 1906 an internal Home Office memo summed up the official view in blunt terms: ‘Incest is very common among the working classes in the big towns’


The whole passage echoes Humbert’s fantasy that “with patience and luck I might have her [Lolita] produce eventually a nymphet with my blood in her exquisite veins, a Lolita the Second, who would be eight or nine around 1960, when I would still be dans la force de l’âge; indeed, the telescopy of my mind, or un-mind, was strong enough to distinguish in the remoteness of time a vieillard encore vert—or was it green rot?—bizarre, tender, salivating Dr. Humbert, practicing on supremely lovely Lolita the Third the art of being a granddad."


Life imitates Nabokov’s art. In 2009 came to light the case of the billionaire Antonio Luciano, in Minas Gerais, Brazil, who bought virgins from poor parents to deflower them. He had more than twenty children out of wedlock, two of them later to become his lovers, as also the children they bore incestuously.


6. [...] trifles as tape recorders, the favorite toys of his and Ada's grandsires (Prince Zemski had one for every bed of his harem of schoolgirls) were not manufactured any more, except in Tartary where they had evolved "minirechi" ("talking minarets") of a secret make. p. 157


Boyd wrote in his annotations that this may remind one of Lolita’s Humbert Humbert who said, “Idiot, triple idiot! I could have filmed her! I would have had her now with me, before my eyes, in the projection room of my pain and despair!”
.
7. The Zemskis were terrible rakes (razvratniki), one of them [Prince Vseslav Zemski] loved small girls [...] p 247


8. In his London studio her husband, an unbalanced, unsuccessful painter (ten years older than his father-in-law whom he envied and despised) shot himself upon receiving the news by cablegram from a village in Normandy called, dreadfully, Deuil. P. 368


9. To put it bluntly, the boy had sought to solace his first sexual torments by imagining and detailing a project (derived from reading too many erotic works [...] namely, a chain of palatial brothels that his inheritance would allow him to establish [...] "Beauty and tenderness, grace and docility" composed the main qualities required of the girls, aged from fifteen to twenty-five in the case of "slender Nordic dolls," and from ten to twenty in that of "opulent Southern charmers." p 369-370


10. Van's sexual dreams are embarrassing to describe in a family chronicle [...] Aqua impersonating Marina or Marina made-up to look like Aqua, arrives to inform Van, joyfully, that Ada has just been delivered of a girl-child whom he is about to know carnally on a hard garden bench while under a nearby pine [...] p. 383-384


11. Its new expression in regard to Ada looked sufficiently fervid to make watchful fools suspect that old Demon "slept with his niece" (actually, he was getting more and more occupied with Spanish girls who were getting more and more youthful every year until by the end of the century, when he was sixty, with hair dyed a mid-night blue, his flame had become a difficult nymphet of ten). P. 415


12. Thus had Mlle Larivière's Enfants Maudits (1887) finally degenerated! She had had two adolescents, in a French castle, poison their widowed mother who had seduced a young neighbor, the lover of one of her twins. P. 449


13. Idle images queued by—Edmund, Edmond, simple Cordula, fantastically intricate Lucette, and, by further mechanical association, a depraved little girl called Lisette, in Cannes, with breasts like lovely abscesses, whose frail favors were handled by a smelly big brother in an old bathing machine. p. 501


14. The hag demanded certain fantastic sums—which Demon, she said, had not had time to pay, for ‘popping the hymen’—whereupon I had one of our strongest boys throw out vsyu (the entire)kompaniyu.”
“Extraordinary,” said Van, “they had been growing younger and younger—I mean the girls, not the strong silent boys. His old Rosalind had a ten-year-old niece, a primed chickabiddy. Soon he would have been poaching them from the hatching chamber.” p. 555


15. [...] left a message for Van, who got it only late at night when he returned from a trip to Sorcière,in the Valais, about one hundred miles east, where he bought a villa for himself et ma cousine, and had supper with the former owner, a banker’s widow, amiable Mme Scarlet and her blond, pimply but pretty, daughter Eveline, both of whom seemed erotically moved by the rapidity of the deal. P. 560


16. The most hazardous moment was when he and she moved to another villa, with a new staff and new neighbors, and his senses would be exposed in icy, fantastic detail, to the gipsy girl poaching peaches or the laundry woman’s bold daughter [...] Yet he knew that by daring to satisfy the corresponding desire for a young wench he risked wrecking his life with Ada. p. 610

In a New York Times Book Review, Alfred Appel, Jr. referred to Ada as an "erotic masterpiece" that put Nabokov on par with Kafka, Proust and Joyce. However, Boyd related in Vladimir Nabokov The American Years that Philip Toynbee, a British writer, opined that Ada was "an appalling piece of unremitting exhibitionism." Maybe the best thing to do is combine both opinions and refer to Nabokov's tome as unremittingly erotic."