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Fans of accurate abomination will be absorbed and abashed by The Absolute Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Atypical That Scandalized the World. It tells the adventure of 11-year-old Florence Sally Horner [known as Sally], who was abducted by blackmailer Frank La Salle in 1948. He collection about the U.S. with Sally, raping her for about two years. In this amalgam book, accurate abomination meets analysis, arguing that Vladimir Nabokov’s abundantly arguable book was aggressive by the Horner case. We allocution to columnist Sarah Weinman, a abomination journalist, editor, and fiction biographer who was built-in and aloft in Ottawa.
If you had apprehend about Sally alfresco the ambience of Lolita, would you accept put the two together?
I never knew Sally’s adventure alfresco that context. It’s a affecting and acute adventure on its own, but alive her adventure got succumbed and sacrificed for abundant art, that’s a abundant added and abundant added complicated catechism than a beeline true-crime story.
What do you beggarly by “succumbed and sacrificed for abundant art”?
In Lolita, there is the band backward in the atypical back Humbert Humbert [the protagonist] utters, “Had I done to Dolly, what Frank Lasalle [sic], a 50-year-old mechanic, had done to 11-year-old Sally in 1948?” That showed Nabokov knew about Sally’s adventure and congenital it in added means than anyone absolutely reckoned with at the time. Back I say succumbed and sacrificed, it’s about allurement what albatross does an artisan accept to reality, to fictionalizing people’s pain? Back a atypical is based on an absolute crime, it should do abundant added than about fictionalize it. The atypical charge angle abandoned as a assignment of art that justifies application the adventure for its own purposes. Emma Cline’s 2016 novel, The Girls, is based on the 1969 Manson murders, but what makes the book sing is its analysis of the insidious attributes of patriarchy.
Author Sarah Weinman was built-in and aloft in Ottawa. Photo by Jessica Deeks
You address at one point that Nabokov “strip-mined [Sally’s case] to aftermath the basic of Lolita.” How all-encompassing was the influence?
Lolita would accept existed if Nabokov had not accepted about Sally and her story. But the way in which Lolita existed would not. By that, I beggarly we apperceive for abiding that he knew about Sally’s afterlife because there’s a notecard in his athenaeum which recopies the allotment in the New York Times on August 20 of 1952 about her death. Abounding of the capacity in that notecard are anon congenital into Lolita. La Salle was bedevilled to 30 to 35 years, which Humbert eventually will be bedevilled to. There are concrete similarities amid the fabulous Dolores and the real-life Sally. Their ages are comparable. Alive Sally’s adventure gave him a way advanced in agreement of the artifice — and he formed at a abundant added feverish amount amid August of 1952 and December of 1953, back he accomplished his aboriginal draft.
That doesn’t necessarily beggarly he acclimated the case as axle or was abundantly aggressive by it.
It’s art: it’s about architectonics and structure. The actuality of accepting a alongside cross-country adventure helped beef out the additional bisected of the book. I never appetite to lose afterimage that Sally is this key basic and that she deserves to be remembered. She deserves to accept this abode in abiding chat with Lolita. So ultimately, I’m acquisitive bodies admit that Sally — and anybody, behindhand of gender or sex or creed, who has accomplished the agony of corruption — affairs and that their belief matter.
I acclaimed some of this amplified evidence: the agnate beard colour, the towns starting with the letter C and on streets starting with the aforementioned letter, phones arena an important role in both. Abreast from the agenda in the library and the advertence in Lolita itself
to Sally, what abroad was there?
It comes bottomward to this: if Nabokov didn’t appetite me researching Sally’s story, why would he accept included it anon in the novel? Yes, it would accept been admirable to acquisition a lot added absolute evidence. With about-face of any kind, it’s additionally important to attending at what’s missing. The actuality was, there was advice missing about Sally in his archives. Nabokov and his wife, Vera, destroyed abundant of the novel’s antecedent actual — including belletrist and addendum — due, in part, to abomination laws at that time. That’s why I anticipate it isn’t there.
The Absolute Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Atypical That Scandalized the World
IN READING LOLITA IN TEHRAN, Azar Nafisi makes the accomplished point that Dolores Haze is a bifold victim, because not alone her activity is taken from her, but additionally her activity story: “The atrocious accuracy of Lolita’s adventure is not the abduction of a twelve-year-old by a bedraggled old man but the approbation of one individual’s activity by another.”
Without acumen it, Nafisi has fabricated the exact alongside amid Dolores Haze and Sally Horner. For Sally’s life, too, was always apparent by the 21 months she spent as Frank La Salle’s captive, his apocryphal daughter, his own accomplished fantasy. After she was rescued, she attempted to resume the activity snatched abroad from her. And it seemed she did, on the surface.
But how could she, back her adventure had been front-page account all beyond the country, and back those in Camden knew absolutely what had happened to her and advised her — abhorrent her — for it? Whether she’d lived two years or abounding decades, whether she ability accept had time to move forward, alike if she could not move on, Sally Horner was always marked.
Lolita’s end, dying in childbirth, is a tragedy. But Sally Horner’s annihilation by car blow is the bigger tragedy, because it was real, and beggared her of the adventitious to abound up and at atomic attack to move forward. In fact, Sally Horner is a amateur victim: snatched from her accustomed activity by Frank La Salle, alone for her activity to be cut abbreviate by car accident, and again strip-mined to aftermath the basic of Lolita, the alone acceptance a parenthetical advertence hidden in apparent sight, hardly noticed by abounding millions of readers.
Over the advance of researching this book these aftermost few years, I would ask affectionate admirers of Lolita if they’d bent the parenthetical advertence to Sally Horner’s kidnapping. The accepted acknowledgment was “no.” This was no absolute surprise. If no one bent the reference, how could they be accepted to see how abundant of the novel’s anatomy rides on what happened to Sally in absolute life? But already seen, it is absurd to unsee.
There is no simple lock-and-key allegory to agree the adverse adventure of Dolores Haze to the adverse adventure of Sally Horner. Vladimir Nabokov was too acute to actualize a life-meets-art dynamic. But Sally’s adventure is absolutely one of those important keys that, already employed, unlocks a analytical inspiration. There is no catechism Lolita would accept existed after Sally Horner because Nabokov spent over twenty years abode on the theme, alive it out in $.25 and pieces as he confused about Europe and America. But the anecdotal was additionally adequate and acicular by the admittance of her story.
Sally Horner can’t be casting abreast so easily. She charge be remembered as added than a adolescent babe always afflicted by a middle-aged man’s abomination of aberrant perversion. A babe who survived adversity, manipulation, and cross-country horror, alone to be denied the adventitious to abound up. A babe immortalized, and always trapped, in the pages of a archetypal atypical of banter and sadness, like a butterfly with wings damaged afore anytime accepting the adventitious to fly.