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Literature / Laughter in the Dark

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Laughter in the Dark, originally titled Camera Obscura, is a 1932 novel by Vladimir Nabokov. Its plot bears a surprising resemblance to that of Lolita, minus the controversial pedophilia elements. Originally in Russian, it was translated by Nabokov himself to English.

Set in the 1930's film industry, the plot deals with Albus Albinus, a middle-aged art critic, who cheats on his wife with a younger lady, Margot. Axel Rex, an American cartoonist, falls in love with her, too. As expected for a Nabokov novel, everything that can go wrong does go wrong.

It was made into a movie in 1969, starring Nicol Williamson.

This novel provides examples of:

  • Adaptational Name Change: In the film, Albert Albinus' name is changed to Sir Edward More.
  • Ephebophile: Margot is only 17 years old, while Albinus is probably in his late forties. Rex is younger, but still over 18.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: Margot is a scheming de facto prostitute who's only with Albinus so that she and her real boyfriend (and pimp) Rex can steal from him. Meanwhile, Albinus is less than sympathetic for abandoning his wife for a trophy teenage kept "girlfriend".
  • Gold Digger: Margot gets every cent she can out of Albinus, his wealth being the only reason she's with him at all.
  • Love Triangle: It gets messy.
  • The Hero Dies: Like Lolita, but with one key difference. Instead of a fight between the two men, like you'd expect, Margot is the one that kills Albinus.
  • Villain Protagonist: While he's not nearly as bad as Humbert, Albinus is still sort of an asshole, abandoning his wife for a not-even-barely-legal girl, jealous of Rex because Margot prefers him over him, etc.