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Somebody told me later that she had been in love with my father, and that he had lightheartedly taken advantage of it one rainy day and forgotten it by the time the weather cleared. I was extremely fond of her, despite the rigidity-the fatal rigidity-of some of her rules. Perhaps she wanted to make of me, in the fullness of time, a better widower than my father. Aunt Sybil had pink-rimmed azure eyes and a waxen complexion.
She wrote poetry. She was poetically superstitious. She said she knew she would die soon after my sixteenth birthday, and did. Her husband, a great traveler in perfumes, spent most of his time in America, where eventually he founded a firm and acquired a bit of real estate. I grew, a happy, healthy child in a bright world of illustrated books, clean sand, orange trees, friendly dogs, sea vistas and smiling faces. Around me the splendid Hotel Mirana revolved as a kind of private universe, a whitewashed cosmos within the blue greater one that blazed outside.
From the aproned pot-scrubber to the flanneled potentate, everybody liked me, everybody petted me.
Elderly American ladies leaning on their canes listed toward me like towers of Pisa. Ruined Russian princesses who could not pay my father, bought me expensive bonbons. He, mon cher petit papa, took me out boating and biking, taught me to swim and dive and water-ski, read to me Don Quixote and Les Mis?
I attended an English day school a few miles from home, and there I played rackets and fives, and got excellent marks, and was on perfect terms with schoolmates and teachers alike. The only definite sexual events that I can remember as having occurred before my thirteenth birthday that is, before I first saw my little Annabel were: a solemn, decorous and purely theoretical talk about pubertal surprises in the rose garden of the school with an American kid, the son of a then celebrated motion-picture actress whom he seldom saw in the three-dimensional world; and some interesting reactions on the part of my organism to certain photographs, pearl and umbra, with infinitely soft partings, in Pichon's sumptuous La Beaut?
Humaine that I had filched from under a mountain of marble-bound Graphics in the hotel library. Later, in his delightful debonair manner, my father gave me all the information he thought I needed about sex; this was just before sending me, in the autumn of , to a lyc?
I remember her features far less distinctly today than I did a few years ago, before I knew Lolita. There are two kinds of visual memory: one when you skillfully recreate an image in the laboratory of your mind, with your eyes open and then I see Annabel in such general terms as: "honey-colored skin," "thin arms," "brown bobbed hair," "long lashes," "big bright mouth" ; and the other when you instantly evoke, with shut eyes, on the dark innerside of your eyelids, the objective, absolutely optical replica of a beloved face, a little ghost in natural colors and this is how I see Lolita.
Let me therefore primly limit myself, in describing Annabel, to saying she was a lovely child a few months my junior. Her parents were old friends of my aunt's, and as stuffy as she.
They had rented a villa not far from Hotel Mirana. Bald brown Mr.
Leigh and fat, powdered Mrs. Leigh born Vanessa van Ness. How I loathed them! At first, Annabel and I talked of peripheral affairs. She kept lifting handfuls of fine sand and letting it pour through her fingers.
Our brains were turned the way those of intelligent European preadolescents were in our day and set, and I doubt if much individual genius should be assigned to our interest in the plurality of inhabited worlds, competitive tennis, infinity, solipsism and so on. The softness and fragility of baby animals caused us the same intense pain. She wanted to be a nurse in some famished Asiatic country; I wanted to be a famous spy. All at once we were madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly in love with each other; hopelessly, I should add, because that frenzy of mutual possession might have been assuaged only by our actually imbibing and assimilating every particle of each other's soul and flesh; but there we were, unable even to mate as slum children would have so easily found an opportunity to do.
After one wild attempt we made to meet at night in her garden of which more later , the only privacy we were allowed was to be out of earshot but not out of sight on the populous part of the plage. There, on the soft sand, a few feet away from our elders, we would sprawl all morning, in a petrified paroxysm of desire, and take advantage of every blessed quirk in space and time to touch each other: her hand, half-hidden in the sand, would creep toward me, its slender brown fingers sleepwalking nearer and nearer; then, her opalescent knee would start on a long cautious journey; sometimes a chance rampart built by younger children granted us sufficient concealment to graze each other's salty lips; these incomplete contacts drove our healthy and inexperienced young bodies to such a state of exasperation that not even the cold blue water, under which we still clawed at each other, could bring relief.
Among some treasures I lost during the wanderings of my adult years, there was a snapshot taken by my aunt which showed Annabel, her parents and the staid, elderly, lame gentleman, a Dr.
Cooper, who that same summer courted my aunt, grouped around a table in a sidewalk caf?. Annabel did not come out well, caught as she was in the act of bending over her chocolat glac? That photograph was taken on the last day of our fatal summer and just a few minutes before we made our second and final attempt to thwart fate.
Under the flimsiest of pretexts this was our very last chance, and nothing really mattered we escaped from the caf? I was on my knees, and on the point of possessing my darling, when two bearded bathers, the old man of the sea and his brother, came out of the sea with exclamations of ribald encouragement, and four months later she died of typhus in Corfu. When I try to analyze my own cravings, motives, actions and so forth, I surrender to a sort of retrospective imagination which feeds the analytic faculty with boundless alternatives and which causes each visualized route to fork and re-fork without end in the maddeningly complex prospect of my past.
I am convinced, however, that in a certain magic and fateful way Lolita began with Annabel. I also know that the shock of Annabel's death consolidated the frustration of that nightmare summer, made of it a permanent obstacle to any further romance throughout the cold years of my youth. The spiritual and the physical had been blended in us with a perfection that must remain incomprehensible to the matter-of-fact, crude, standard-brained youngsters of today.
Long after her death I felt her thoughts floating through mine. Long before we met we had had the same dreams. We compared notes. We found strange affinities.
The same June of the same year a stray canary had fluttered into her house and mine, in two widely separated countries. Oh, Lolita, had you loved me thus! I have reserved for the conclusion of my "Annabel" phase the account of our unsuccessful first tryst. One night, she managed to deceive the vicious vigilance of her family.
In a nervous and slender-leaved mimosa grove at the back of their villa we found a perch on the ruins of a low stone wall. Through the darkness and the tender trees we could see the arabesques of lighted windows which, touched up by the colored inks of sensitive memory, appear to me now like playing cards-presumably because a bridge game was keeping the enemy busy. Later that day, he visits an antiquarian bookshop where he discovers Um ourives das palavras A Goldsmith of Words may refer to Gil Vicente formidable playwright and poet of the Portuguese Renaissance who had possibly been a goldsmith , a book by Amadeu de Prado who ponders the philosophical issue of going back in time and making various different choices, resulting in a completely different life.
Raimund is immediately intrigued by the author's somber musings. The book is in Portuguese, a language Raimund doesn't speak, so he begins translating with the help of a dictionary.
Sensing a kindred spirit in Amadeu, he is suddenly gripped by the fear of not living his life to its full potential. The next morning, he abandons his teaching position, turns his back on Bern and sets out for Lisbon. There, he begins investigating the fate of the Prado family. Amadeu de Prado is a doctor during the Salazar Dictatorship He has an expressed interest in literature and begins questioning his world, his experiences and the words contained in conversation and written thought.
His life and thoughts are strongly influenced by living under an oppressive regime. His father, a stern man and a judge loyal to the government, later crumbles under the pressure of his conscience and commits suicide. Amadeu, who is by now an accomplished and well-liked doctor, saves the life of Mendez, the "Butcher of Lisbon" and Chief of Secret Police. In the public eye, Amadeu's actions mark him down as a traitor, resulting in him being shunned and secretly joining the resistance to ease his conscience.
After his premature death aneurysm , Amadeu's notes and journal entries are edited and published by his sister Adriana.