Vladimir Nabokov arrived in America in 1940 at the age of 41 with an immigration card that simply read ‘Without Nationality’<sup>1</sup>. His life of exile had begun much earlier, in December 1917, when his family fled Bolshevik Russia to live in Europe the next 20 years. A decade after gaining US citizenship, however, Nabokov published a wholly American novel in <em>Lolita</em> (1955). <br><br>Dolores Haze is a 12-year-old girl who is introduced to 37-year-old lodger Humbert Humbert as ‘Lo’ by her widowed mother. Humbert renames her ‘Lolita’, ‘the tip of the tongue taking a trip three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.’<sup>2</sup> Their first introduction is full of water imagery, ‘a blue sea-wave swelled under his heart’ when he sees his ‘Riviera love’<sup>3</sup>. Nabokov also links ‘Lo’ to the similar-sounding ‘l’eau’<sup>4</sup>, French for water. <br><br>Humbert, like Nabokov, is a European immigrant who sees himself as fully American. Both narrator and author prove their citizenship through their word games and wit. <br><br>Nabokov belonged to the modernist generation of writers disillusioned by two world wars. As an exile who arrived ‘without nationality’, Nabokov shows through his writing that feelings of isolation never truly disappear. To ease his loneliness, Nabokov uses playful word games in moments of dark humour, where they would be least expected. <br><br>When <em>Lolita</em> was attacked as anti-American, Nabokov defended it as his ‘trying to be an American citizen and claim only the same rights that other Americans enjoy’<sup>5</sup>.<br><br>In the same way that <em>Lolita</em> disguises paedophilia as romance, Nabokov compels the reader to overlook his non-American birth in a game of seduction with the American public.