In 1959, Umberto Eco published a short pastiche of Nabokov's novel Lolita. An English translation named "Granita" was published in the anthology Misreadings in 1994.

In this pastiche, a certain Umberto Umberto (Umberto being the Italian version of Humbert as well as the author's given name) writes about his tempestuous flight through Piedmont with the geriatric Granita, the object of his desires and recipient of his sexual attention.

In the English translation, the word 'nymphets' from Nabokov's work is substituted with 'nornettes'.

Am I correct in surmising that this is a word-play based on the Italian nonna (grandmother)?

Which word did Eco use in the Italian original?

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    – Charo
    Aug 11, 2020 at 19:18

1 Answer 1


The Italian original is titled Nonita and can be found in this post.

You can see that the word used in the original that has been translated into English as "nornettes" is parchette:

Per designare costoro, sconosciute ai più, dimenticate dalla indifferenza lubrica degli abituali usagers di friulane sode e venticinquenni, adoprerò, lettore, oppresso anche in questo dai rigurgiti di un’impetuosa sapienza che mi atterrisce ogni gesto di innocenza che mai tenti – un termine che non dispero esatto: parchette.

I don't perceive in the term you mention any connection with the word "nonna", but with Parcae, that in Italian are called Parche: parchette would be some kind of diminutive of Parche. It seems that, for some reason, the translator to English has decided to refer to the Norns when using "nornettes".

As @DaG has said in his comment, Nobokov's "nymphets" are a diminutive form of nymphs, Roman mythological figures associated with youth, whereas Parcae (and also Norns in Germanic mythology) are associated with old age.

That said, the title Nonita seems to me a clear reference to the Italian word nonna that, as I've learned reading Primo Levi's short stories, is pronounced nona in Piedmont.

  • 2
    parchette would be some kind of diminutive of Parche”: exactly, just like ninfetta / “nymphet” is a diminutive form of ninfa / “nymph”, a different Roman mythological figure, which is associated with youth, just like the Parcae are associated with old age. For the record, the original text by Eco was part of Diario minimo, a collection of columns by Eco published in the magazine Il Verri, featuring short essays and divertissements.
    – DaG
    Aug 11, 2020 at 21:25
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    "Nonita" is a clever find for the title; I think I like it even better than the English "Granita". Thanks for clearing up the mythologically derived terms! Eco's playful short story is a delight to read for anyone who's read Lolita.
    – JeroenHoek
    Aug 12, 2020 at 7:22

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