1958 September 18

Cincinnati Public Library Bans “Lolita,” Acclaimed Novel

 

The Cincinnati Public Library on this day voted to ban the recently published and widely acclaimed novel Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. Lolita is today widely regarded as one of the greatest novels in the English language (and it should be noted that English was the second language of the Russian-born Nabokov). Lolita was and still is highly controversial because of its subject matter, the sexual relationship between the late middle-aged Humbert Humbert and the 12-year old Lolita (whose real name was Dolores Haze. One member of the Cincinnati library Board of Directors resigned in protest of the ban.

Nabokov had great difficulty in finding a publisher, and it was finally published in Paris by the Olympia Press, owned and edited by Maurice Girodias, which specialized in erotica, including many outstanding literary works that were banned in the U.S. and/or England. In the 1950s, numerous American tourists made a point of returning from France with banned novels, easily identifiable with their green covers.

Ironically, Lolita was promptly banned in France in 1955 by the Minister of the Interior. The ban was finally lifted in late 1958, only after it had been published to great success in the U.S. and England. In the U.S. it went immediately to the top of the New York Times best-seller list, and was the first novel since Gone With the Win to sell 100,000 copies in the first three weeks. Apart from the ban in Cincinnati and by the Newark, New Jersey, public library, Lolita encountered very little censorship (which contrasted with the many censorship incidents involving Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer and D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly’s Lover).

Read the classic novel: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

Learn more at the National Coalition Against Censorship here.

Visit the Nabokov web site here.

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