Who Wrote It First

April 20, 2016 | 4

Nabokov fans, brace yourselves! Nabokov scholar Michael Maar accuses the author of stealing the premise of Lolita from another writer. Pair with this Millions essay about designing the cover of the book.

is an intern for The Millions. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in BOMB, Ploughshares online, Music & Literature, Words Without Borders, and elsewhere. She is currently the assistant fiction editor for Washington Square Review. She tweets at @bdantaslobato.


  1. I had the impression from the exchange that Maar thought of Nabokov’s Lolita as more influenced by or derived from Lichberg’s than a plagiarism of it.

  2. Unless someone can show us the sentences, in VN’s Lolita, that are (or nearly) word-for-word copies of sentences to be found in a text known to have preceded VN’s book, using the word “plagiarism”, here, is libellous and… idiotic. Anyway, Maar makes it clear that his interest in all this centers on the distinct (but literarily inconsequential) possibility of a secret connection between VN’s Lolita and a German writer’s book…. he’s trying to hunt down another one of VN’s pranks. Did whoever linked this actually read the article…?

  3. From the article:

    Question: “So let’s get this out of the way first—is this about plagiarism?”

    Answer: “Of course not. The word came up in the press when I published my first article about the discovery, but that’s not what this is about at all.”

    And so it persists in the press. Maybe I should just be skipping straight to the Parid Review?

  4. The stealth edit from “plagiarism” to “stealing the premise” is hilarious. This slender distinction, adopted presumably out of self-delusion, is also incorrect.

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