Nabokov, a three-time refugee from totalitarian governments, famously rejected literature bearing social messages. Yet at the end of his seventh decade, he vowed to his first biographer that he would one day tackle Nazi terror. “I will go to those German camps and look at those places and write a terrible indictment.”1 Decades later Kubrick made real progress toward his goal: he drafted a script, cast lead actors, and scouted a location in the Czech Republic for a film with the working title Aryan Papers. Yet neither man would complete his project.
Lolita, their only collaboration, somehow survived the censors, despite a plot centered on a professor’s cross-country travel and multi-year sexual abuse of his stepdaughter. While the subject of the movie stands at some distance from genocide, Nabokov’s 1955 novel and Kubrick’s 1962 film each play with coy and explicit Holocaust references, and hint at why neither man would ever produce a masterwork exploring the tragedy.