It is actually possible to read the story and make sense out of it without reference to any of the annotations, but almost any reader will be keenly aware of having missed a lot in the process. That is, you dont really miss any of the story without the annotations, but much of what makes Lolita famous is whats going on between the lines, and, unless you speak both English and French and have an encyclopedic knowledge of literature in both languages, you probably wont get more than 10% of this "extra" material without a good set of annotations.
As the name implies, "The Annotated Lolita" is superbly annotated, translating foreign phrases, explaining literary references, and pointing out connections between characters in different parts of the story. Unfortunately, this has the effect of sacrificing some of the surprise in the surface story, not to mention giving you neck pain from constantly flipping back and forth while you read.
But if you dont mind taking the time, you can get the best of both worlds from this edition. You begin by reading the text of the novel straight through one time without reference to either the introduction or the annotations. Having done that, you next read the introduction (which is excellent in its own right, but which really does depend on you already having read the story) and finally, skim the text again, checking out each annotation as you go. It will take more time, but youll get to enjoy the surface story without distractions and youll have the pleasure of watching all the mysteries clear up on the second pass.
Tags: V.Nabokov People