Monday, January 18, 2010

Literary Lions and Lolita

Many thanks to The Guardian’s book blog which, in a fairly pointless anti-list piece, included a link to what is arguably one of the most significant pieces of literary television journalism. Ever.

Three literary heavyweights sitting around a table – books and cigarettes all over the place. The trio: über critic Lionel Trilling, the author Vladimir Nabokov and -- since it’s a CBC interview -- iconic Canadian broadcaster and cultural archivist, Pierre Burton is acting as moderator. What’s under discussion is Lolita and the interview was broadcast at a time when it was the book that everyone was discussing.

A Canadian television archive site describes the episode in this way:
Nov 19, 1958 - Short of a change of plans -- and this program occasionally has to switch without much notice -- viewers should get a live interview with Vladimir Nabokov, conducted in New York by critic Lionel Trilling. Nabokov is the author of Lolita, the most controversial novel of the year. On a recent edition of Fighting Words no less an author than Nicholas Monsarrat thought it ought to be banned. Others have violently disagreed, called it a work of extraordinary art.
I have no idea why Burton isn’t mentioned, but that’s definitely him.

The episode did not air in two parts, but YouTube has it archived that way. The second part is here.



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