Thursday, December 7, 2017

SPEAK, MEMORY (1951\1966)




Speak, Memory, Nabokov's autobiography, was initially published in 1951, but it was revised, extended and republished in 1966.



1. While discussing the lineage of his German great-grandmother, Baron Ferdinand von Korff, Nabokov shared:


Antoinette’s mother, Elisabeth née Fischer (born 1760), was the daughter of Regina born Hartung (1732–1805), daughter of Johann Heinrich Hartung (1699–1765), head of a well-known publishing house in Königsberg. Elisabeth was a celebrated beauty. After divorcing her first husband, Justizrat Graun, the composer’s son, in 1795, she married the minor poet Christian August von Stägemann, and was the “motherly friend,” as my German source puts it, of a much better-known writer, Heinrich von Kleist (1777–1811), who, at thirty-three, had fallen passionately in love with her twelve-year-old daughter Hedwig Marie (later von Olfers). (54)

2. Nabokov’s humble drawing master was a “quiet, bearded gentleman with a stoop, old-fashioned”. Nabokov used to synchronize his drawing master’s age with the ages of his “granduncles and old family servants”. Nabokov learned twenty-five years later that his drawing master “had married a young Estonian girl”. (93)

3. Nabokov’s father, Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov, wrote Sbornik statey po ugolovnomu pravu (1904). Almost sixty years after it was published, Andrew Field bought a copy of the “collection of articles on criminal law” in a used bookstore in Russia. In “Carnal Crimes” (1902), Nabokov’s “father discusses, rather prophetically in a certain odd sense, cases (in London) of little girls à l'âge le plus tendre (v nezhneyshem vozraste), i.e., from eight to twelve years, being sacrificed to lechers (slastolyubtsam).” (178)


4. Alex Beam related in The Feud: Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson, and the End of a Beautiful Friendship that “Confession Sexuelle d’un Russe du Sud” was published in the appendix of volume six of Havelock Ellis’ Studies of Sexual Psychology and is deemed to be the authentic memoir of the narrator who was a “wealthy Ukrainian who lost his virginity at the age of twelve, having been seduced by girls his age and by older women.” Subsequently, after earning an engineering degree, the narrator is introduced to Italian nymphet prostitutes while on a business trip in Naples.


"Confession Sexuelle d'un Russe du Sud" was translated into Secret Lolita: The Confessions of Victor X by Donald Rayfield, an emeritus professor of Russian and Georgian at Queen Mary University of London. Here's a conservative excerpt that describes two of the Italian pre-teen prostitutes:

I was sent with some colleagues to Naples by my firm’s management, to look into the planned installation of an electrical factory, and plans for harnessing hydraulic power from the mountains around. I made my first visit there - the most pleasure-loving city of all Europe, not forgetting Munich, Paris and Berlin. One thing Naples is noted for is an enormous traffic in little boys and girls, and openly too. If you buy something in a shop, the shopkeeper, who may look quite respectable, will offer to show you a little girl of twelve, ten or eight. Pimps accost strangers in the street offering them little girls or little boys. Families who are not badly off and who have some standing - petty shopkeepers, clerks, tailors, cobblers ¾ also traffic in their prepubescent girls. 

For the reasonable price of twenty, thirty, forty francs you are just allowed to have fun or to play with them. If you want to deflower one, that costs more - hundreds or a thousand francs, depending on the family’s social status. At the right price you can sometimes find this pleasure even in families that seem to be quite ‘comme il faut’ . You admire an elegant young girl at the theater, surrounded by her family in her box. The person next to you in the stalls notices your enthusiasm. He tells you that the lady is yours at quite a moderate price and offers to help by introducing you. The Neapolitans are a very practical lot indeed. They make money every way they can except by working. Work is a source of income that does not appeal to them. The big San Carlo theater has a large ballet which operates independently of the opera. Several hundred children of both sexes form part of the ballet and it is just a great center for prostitution.

The two little girls were both as expert as each other. They told me all sorts of things about pederasty and lesbianism in this city. They went in for the latter with each other and with girlfriends. They had watched specially arranged copulations ¾ among others, a woman having intercourse with a dog, a man with a duck whose throat he cut during the act (that was an Englishman too), pyramid coitus which combined several people. They had posed for obscene photographs.

They were very sensual but, oddly enough, the younger one was even more so than her sister - she had violent orgasms when she looked like someone in death-throes, and secreted copiously. She adored obscene talk, photographs and reading, and used her erotic talents enthusiastically. When I came to the house, her face beamed with joy. I remember the deeply heartbroken, unhappy look she had one day when, to save money, I said I would made do with just the older girl. When afterwards I came out of the bedroom after that session, I saw the younger girl sitting on a chair by the door listening, her face sallow with vexation, trembling all over with frustration. She was overjoyed the next time when it was her turn to be asked for. She started dancing.

My sexual intoxication worsened from day to day. I soon got to know other ‘honorable’ family with little girls of ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen who were likewise virgins and as expert as the first two and, just like them. At our first conversation they offered to do ‘69’ (far il sessanta nove) with me - they used a lot of other terms as well as that technical one. They told me about their homosexual lovemaking and the erotic scenes they had watched. I never had vaginal intercourse with any of them.

Beam related that Edmund Wilson was confident that Lolita was inspired by “Confession Sexuelle d’un Russe du Sud”, which was gifted to Nabokov by Wilson in June of 1948. Wilson felt that he had an, although, indirect yet strong influence on Lolita. In a letter to Nabokov, Wilson wrote that "Confession Sexuelle d'un Russe du Sud" “no doubt inspired Lolita”. Even if Wilson’s claim can’t be proven, Beam wrote: “We know that Nabokov read the Ellis tale (i.e., "Confession Sexuelle d'un Russe du Sud") closely, because he referred to it twice, once in Speak, Memory and a second time, and in greater detail, when he translated and re-edited Speak, Memory as Drugiye Berega into Russian.

Our innocence seems to me now almost monstrous in light of various “sexual confessions” (to be found in Havelock Ellis and elsewhere), which involve tiny tots mating like mad. (Speak, Memory, 203)

Our innocence seems to me now almost monstrous in the light of various confessions dating from the same years and cited by Havelock Ellis, which speak of tiny tots of every imaginable sex, who practice every Graeco-Roman sin, constantly and everywhere, from Anglo-Saxon industrial centers to the Ukraine (from where an especially lascivious report by a landowner is available). (Drugie berega, 184.)

In addition to "Confession Sexuelle d'un Russe du Sud", Alexander Dolinin wrote in "Nabokov and Third-Rate Literature (On a Source of LOLITA)" that Valentin Samsonov’s “A Fairy-Tale Princess” may have been an additional source for Lolita.

The short story is about Oleg Prostov, an insatiable nympholept, who confessed: “I am convinced that only with a girl not older than fifteen I can experience delight and it is worth giving my life for.”

Subsequently, Oleg kidnaps and rapes Ira, a thirteen-year-old schoolgirl. Consequently: “Oleg is arrested and sentenced to long-term imprisonment for kidnapping." In prison he tells the narrator: "[...] that he is happy; Ira, meanwhile, is sad and dreams of meeting him again.”

Dolinin noted some possible references in Lolita to “A Fairy-Tale Princess”:

1. Oleg Sherva is listed as one of Lolita’s classmates
2. And referring to the list, Humbert states passionately: “[...] “Haze, Dolores” (she!) in its special bower of names, with its bodyguard of roses - a fairy princess between her two maids of honor.” (52)










Monday, November 27, 2017

LILITH (1928)



In the poem "Lilith", a nymphet leaves a man flabbergasted after she suddenly ends copulation:
                           
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.” And that: “Intelligent readers will abstain from examining this impersonal fantasy for any links with my later fiction.” (243)  However, 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." (79)

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.”

Sunday, November 26, 2017

THE [SHORT] STORIES OF VLADIMIR NABOKOV

 
 
“Skazka” [“A Nursery Tale”] (1926)
 
Nabokov wrote “Skazka” [“A Nursery Tale”] in 1926 before it was published in Rul', a Berlin emigre newspaper that was founded by his father. When Nabokov translated the story before it was published in Details of a Sunset (1976) and Playboy (1974), 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 he wrote almost half a century ago”.

In “A Nursery Tale”, on his ride to work, Erwin habitually gazed through the tram's window and picked young girls for his imaginary harem. Eventually, Erwin was offered the opportunity to have his dreams come true after he met Frau Monde, a female Devil, who promised Erwin that he could have all the girls he wanted in “a villa with a walled garden" upon "cushions and rugs” but that it was “essential and final” that he select an odd number of girls between noon and midnight. Consequently, Erwin started collecting slave girls. Here's a partial yet relevant list:

1.    A maiden in a white dress with chestnut hair and palish lips who was playing with her “fat shaggy pup”
2.    “[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.”
3.    And “[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.”

Couturier wrote that Erwin, who was Nabokov's first nympholept, was so blinded by his desire for his first nymphet that it prevented him from the thirteen other young women whom he could have enjoyed.

“The Fight"
 
In “The Fight”, a writer sunbathing on a German beach is intrigued by Mr. Kraus. The writer discovered that Mr. Kraus owned a tavern where he was assisted by Emma - “a young girl in a checkered dress, fair-haired, with pointed pink elbows”. 

Emma’s lover was an electrician who had a “malevolent wrinkle beside his mouth”. The writer narrated that what he liked the most about Emma, with her “small birdlike face” and “vapid” and “tender eyes” was the way that she looked at her lover “as he lazily leaned on the bar.” After Emma’s father and her lover got into a brawl, the writer couldn’t resist consoling the young girl by stroking and kissing her kitchen scented fair hair. 

 “Terror”

In “Terror”, the poet’s mistress is described as a “naive little maiden” with “unassuming prettiness, gaiety, friendliness”. Their affair lasted almost three years until the poet departed by train only to have to return to her bedside and consequently save himself from “insanity. 

“Solus Rex”

In “Solus Rex” “Prince Fig enjoyed a kind of smutty popularity [...] The more lewdly Fig romped, the louder folks guffawed [...] A characteristic detail: one day when the prince, passing on horseback, a cigar between his teeth, through a backwoodsy hamlet, noticed a comely little girl to whom he offered a ride, and notwithstanding her parents’ horror [...] swept her away [...] the child returned after an hour’s absence, holding a hundred-krun note in one hand, and, in the other, a fledgling that had fallen out of its nest in a desolate grove where she had picked it up on her way back to the village.”

“The Aurelian”

In “The Aurelian”, Paul Pilgram, a “flabby elderly man”, had a habit of ordering a drink and filling his pipe after entering the town’s “small bar”. And “[i]f the bartender’s daughter, a pretty freckled girl in a polka-dotted frock, happened to pass close enough, he had a go at her elusive hip, and, whether the slap succeeded or not, his gloomy expression never changed, although the veins on his temple grew purple.” 

“A Dashing Fellow”

Early in “A Dashing Fellow” the protagonist asked, “What is better: the experience of a sexy thirty-year-old brunette, or the silly young bloom of a bright curled romp?” But by the end of the short story he exclaimed, “That old bitch. No, we like only small blonds - remember that once for all.” 

Nabokov wrote in A Russian Beauty and Other Stories that “A Dashing Fellow” was rejected by Rul’ (Berlin) and Poslednie Novosti (Paris) for being “improper and brutal” before it was published in Segodnya (Riga) and in the December 1971 issue of Playboy.

“Lips to Lips”
 
In “Lips to Lips”, Ilya Borisovich, a naive aspiring novelist, is writing a novel in which “elderly” Dolinin meets Irina,  “a girl in black” with a “supple young body”, at the theater. 

After the move to Dolinin’s flat, Irina exclaims, “Take me, take my purity, take my torment [...] because I love you.” 

Commenting on the manuscript: “I suppose he’ll deflower her,” mused Euphratski “an émigré journalist”. 

And the narrator opines: One of the many issues with Ilya’s novel is that he too frequently uses the adjective ‘“young’ (feminine gender), replacing it here and there by ‘youthful’”.

 “Music”

In “Music”, Victor noticed his estranged wife in the audience at the music hall. He reminisced about the time they were “talking about some trifle” when she interjected, “‘Let’s separate for a while. We can’t go on like this.’ The neighbors’ little daughter burst into the room to show her kitten (the sole survivor of a litter that had been drowned.)" Victor’s wife confessed: “The first time [that she had cheated on him] had been in the park, then at his place.”

I was ripped about including “Music”, but my gut tells me that “kitten” is a Nabokovian sexual innuendo\pun.

“Perfection”

An excerpt from “Perfection” reads: “During those first warm days everything seemed beautiful and touching: the leggy little girls playing hopscotch on the sidewalk, the old men on the benches, the green confetti that sumptuous lindens scattered every time the air stretched its invisible limbs.” 

The old men on the benches reminded me of the protagonist in The Enchanter who “[...] seated himself on a bench in a city park” where he ogled his nymphet.

“The Circle”

Count Konstantin Godunov-Cherdyntsev of “The Circle” “was spending the summer at Leshino, his estate in the Government of St. Petersburg, with his young wife (at forty he was twice as old as she).”

 “THAT IN ALLEPO ONCE…”

Lastly, the poet of “THAT IN ALLEPO ONCE…” had a “much younger” wife but “[...] not as much younger as was Nathalie of the lovely bare shoulders and long earrings in relation to swarthy Pushkin.” 

After he “held her slender young hips (she was combing her soft hair and tossing her head back with every stroke)” she informed him, “I’ve been lying to you, dear [...] Ya Igunia. I stayed for several nights in Montpellier with a brute of a man I met on the train. I did not want it at all. He sold hair lotions.”

Saturday, November 25, 2017

THE ORIGINAL OF LAURA (1974)




Here’s Publishers Weekly description The Original of Laura:

Before Nabokov's death in 1977, he instructed his wife to burn the unfinished first draft—handwritten on 138 index cards—of what would be his final novel. She did not, and now Nabokov's son, Dmitri, is releasing them to the world [...] It would be a mistake for readers to come to this expecting anything resembling a novel, though the few actual scenes here are unmistakably Nabokovian — a character named Hubert H. Hubert molesting a girl, a decaying old man's strained attempt at perfunctory sex with his younger wife. The story appears to be about a woman named Flora (spelled, once, as Flaura), who has Lolita-like moments in her childhood and is later the subject of a scandalous novel, Laura, written by a former lover. Mostly, this amounts to a peek inside the author's process and mindset as he neared death. Indeed, mortality, suicide, impotence, a disgust with the male human body—and an appreciation of the fit, young female body—figure prominently.

Because it’s an unfinished first draft, The Original of Laura can be difficult to read, but some of the themes of nympholepsy are clear. For example, Adam Lind, a photographer and the son of the painter Lev Linde, married Lanskaya, a ballerina. After Adam committed suicide, Lanskaya found an "elderly but still vigorous" lover in Hubert H. Hubert, who was deeply attracted to Flora, Lanskaya's "lovely" 12-year-old daughter.  

Flora was "alone in the house with Mr. Hubert, who constantly "prowled" around her […] she did not dare to let her arms hang aimlessly lest her knuckles came into contact with some horrible part of that kindly but smelly and "pushing" old male." (57)

"In one scene, while Flora, with her dark blue eyes and silky blondish hair, was in bed "with a chest cold," (63) Hubert "brought his pet a thoughtful present: a miniature chess set" (65) but the game didn't last long because "[a]fter a few minutes of play Flora grew tired of it, put a rook in her mouth, ejected it [ ...] Then, with a father's sudden concern, he said, "I'm afraid you are chilly my love," and plunging a hand under the bedclothes from his vantage point at the footboard, he felt her shins. Flora uttered a yelp and then a few screams." (71)

Hubert never got his wish to be with Flora, but she "was barely fourteen when she lost her virginity". (77) And she had a lipstick lesbian fling with a “fun loving little Japanese [girl] who would twist her limbs into a pretzel”. (95)

By the time Flora was 24, she was "extravagantly slender," had "cup-sized breasts," and due to her beauty she "seemed a dozen years younger,"  i.e., Flora looked like a beautiful twelve-year-old. (15)

According to Couturier, The Original of Laura's Hubert H. Hubert is “an obvious replica of Humbert Humbert…He was the perfect nympholept, obviously, but contrary to Humbert, he never managed to become sexually intimate with his stepdaughter.” (91)

Sources:

Couturier, Maurice. Nabokov's Eros and the Poetics of Desire

           Palgrave Macmillan, 2014. Kindle Edition.  
Nabokov, Vladimir, and Dmitri Nabokov. The Original of Laura: Dying Is Fun

           Penguin Classics, 2009.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

LOOK AT THE HARLEQUINS! (1974)



Richard Poirier wrote in a New York Times review of Look at the Harlequins!: “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”.

1. Vadim and Iris, his future first wife, were sunbathing on the French Riviera when Vadim spotted 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.” (29)

Couturier wrote in Nabokov's Eros and the Poetics of Desire that Vadim is referring to Nabokov as the later era amateur. (73)

To impress Vadim, Iris shared: “At eleven or twelve […] I was as pretty as that French orphan [...] I let smelly gentlemen fondle me.” (29)

2. 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 (fictional) 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”. (78)

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.” (78)

3. Subsequently, Vadim became 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.’” (168)

Vadim doesn't consummate with his biological daughter; however: “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'” (173)

4. Vadim was invited by Mrs. King to an "impromptu soirée". (175). At the gathering were "only six people in a spacious parlor, not counting two painted girl-children in Tyrolean dress [...]" (176)

Subsequently: "[...] The two cold-thighed chessy-necked girleens were now engaged in a quarrelsome game as to who would sit on my left knee, that side of my lap where the honey was, trying to straddle Left Knee, warbling in Tyrolese and pushing each other off, and cousin Fay kept bending toward me and saying in a macabre accent: "Elles vous aiment tant! Finally I pinched and twisted the nearest buttock, and with a squeal they resumed their running around, like the eternal little pleasure-park train, brushing the brambles. (180)

Couturier noted that “that side of [his] lap where the honey was” was another poetic metaphor to avoid naming the real thing. (86)

5. Couturier wrote: "Dolly, whom he had fondled but not possessed at the time when she was a nymphet, reappears at this point in the story; she is now twenty-four. She claims she had 'always had a crush' on him when he mesmerized her on his lap, 'playing sweet Uncle Gasper'". (83)

"One day, she walks into his office at the university and challenges him to make love to her, emulating Lolita at the Enchanted Hunters: Smiling, she swept the examination books off the desk and perched upon it with her bare shins in my face. What might have promised the most refined ardors turned out to be the tritest scene in this memoir. I hastened to quench a thirst that had been burning a hole in the mixed metaphor of my life ever since I had fondled a quite different Dolly thirteen years earlier [when she was eleven]. The ultimate convulsion rocked the desk lamp, and from the class just across the corridor came a burst of applause at the end of Professor King’s last lecture of the season." (139–40)

Sources:

Couturier, Maurice. Nabokov's Eros and the Poetics of Desire. Palgrave
        Macmillan, 2014. Kindle Edition.   

Nabokov, Vladimir. Look at the Harlequins!. McGraw-Hill , 1974.  
Poirier, Richard. “Look at the Harlequins!” The New York Times, 13 Oct. 1974, 
       www.nytimes.com/books/97/03/02/lifetimes/nab-r-harlequins.html.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

TRANSPARENT THINGS (1972)




Here's Martin Amis' book description on Amazon of Nabokov's Transparent Things:

"Transparent Things revolves around the four visits of the hero--sullen, gawky Hugh Person--to Switzerland [...] As a young [sic] publisher, Hugh is sent to interview R., falls in love with Armande on the way, wrests her, after multiple humiliations, from a grinning Scandinavian and returns to NY with his bride [...] Eight years later--following a murder, a period of madness and a brief imprisonment--Hugh makes a lone sentimental journey to wheedle out his past [...]"

1. In addition to being a publisher, Hugh Person was a writer too. He had "an unfinished short story in a Russian copybook [...] parts of a philosophical essay in a blue cahier [...] and the loose sheets of a rudimentary novel under the title Faust in Moscow." (18) Hugh was unpublished except for a poem that was published in a college magazine. (22)

But forty-year-old Person "had courted a thirty-eight-year-old mother and her sixteen-year-old daughter but had been impotent with the first and not audacious enough with the second." (17)

2. Person met twenty-three-year-old Armande, who had "dark eyes, fair hair, a honey-hued skin. Twin dimples [...] in a Swiss railway carriage." (25) They were subsequently married, but the age-discrepant marriage ended very badly. 

3. Mr. R, a much older published writer took Julia Moore's virginity when she was thirteen. By the way, Julia was Mr. R's step-daughter. "[...] Julia, who according to Phil had been debauched at thirteen by R., right at the start of her mother's disastrous marriage." (35)

4. Mr. R's affair with his step-daughter lasted until she was eighteen, which was when he discovered that his wife and step-daughter were "having and affair with Christian Pines, son of the well-known cinema man who had directed the film Golden Windows (precariously based on the best of the author's novels)." (32)

5. Person had a one-night-stand with the eighteen-year-old Julia, who had a doll face, slanting eyes, "and topaz -teared earlobes" (34) in his upper-east side apartment after meeting her at a party in Manhattan. (35)

Interestingly, Armande and Julia were friends and "had both taught in the winter at a school for foreign ladies in the Tessin." (27)

5. Armande's "parents and aunts, the insatiable takers of cute pictures, believed in fact that a girl child of ten, the dream of a Lutwidgean, had the same right to total nudity as an infant." (40) Person had the pleasure of perusing the photo album that contained nude photos of Armande during her nymphet years.

Alice Liddell as Penelophon in "The King and the Beggar-Maid" [Lewis Carroll (1858)]

The Lutwidgean reference was to Charles Lutwidge Dodgson whose pen name was Lewis Carroll. As mentioned previously, Carroll famously wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which Nabokov translated into Russian.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland may have been inspired by Alice Liddell. Caroll took suggestive photographs of pre-teen Liddell, as well as other nymphets, and Morton Cohen alleged in Lewis Carroll: A Biography that Carroll desired to marry eleven-year-old Liddell.  (30-35)

Sources:

Nabokov, Vladimir. Transparent Things. McGraw-Hill , 1972.  
Cohen, Morton. Lewis Carroll: A Biography. Vintage Books, 1996