Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer.
(Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov)

I can see the as~as expression, two adverbial: ‘before Lolita was born’ and ‘that summer’ in the highlighted part. But with this I can’t understand the phrase at all. Would you show me the meaning with parsing?

  • 2
    Humbert Humbert's 25 years older than Lolita, so it seems that he was about 12 or 13 at the time. Add 13 or 12 and you get 25, which is how old HH was when Lolita was born.
    – user264
    May 3, 2013 at 10:57
  • 1
    How many novels are you reading at the same time?
    – Max
    May 3, 2013 at 18:24
  • @Thor, I read just one after another except Harry Potter book 1. So you can say I'm reading two at a time.
    – Listenever
    May 3, 2013 at 22:57

1 Answer 1


As Bill Franke discerns (and solves), it's a math puzzle—Vladimir Nabokov channeling Lewis Carroll.

When is understood as in what year. My age ... that summer is equivalent to the number of years after I was born, and the *as ... as ... * construction states that this is equal to the number of years before Lolita was born:

The year in which that happened (let's call it YX) was as many years before the year in which Lolita was born (YLB) as after the year in which I was born (YHB).

That is, the year in question fell midway between the two birth years:

YX = YHB + ((YLB-YHB)/2)

Following Bill we read the book and discover that HH is 25 years older than Lolita:

YLB-YHB = 25

By substitution, then:

YX = YHB + (25/2) = YHB + 12.5

The event occurred in the summer when HH was 12½ years old.

  • I’ve took away the book this morning and got back it for jotting your words down. This was my second try for the book. I daresay it would be much better for my understanding next time someday. I love the symbols you adopt today. Actually I read math book every day. I like to read modern physics and the philosophic words. So for understanding their words I read it steadily. Concise-and –containing-profuse-ness, that’s, probably, the name of your marks.
    – Listenever
    May 13, 2013 at 23:23

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