“I was still walking behind Mrs. Haze though the dining room when, beyond it, there came a sudden burst of greenery — “the piazza,” sang out my leader, and then, without the least warning, a blue sea-wave swelled under my heart and, from a mat in a pool of sun, half-naked, kneeling, turning about on her knees, there was my Riviera love peering at me over dark glasses.(my emphasis)
It was the same child — the same frail, honey-hued shoulders, the same silky supple bare back, the same chestnut head of hair. A polka-dotted black kerchief tied around her chest hid from my aging ape eyes, but not from the gaze of young memory, the juvenile breasts I had fondled one immortal day. And, as if I were the fairy-tale nurse of some little princess (lost, kidnapped, discovered in gypsy rags through which her nakedness smiled at the king and his hounds), I recognized the tiny dark-brown mole on her side. With awe and delight (the king crying for joy, the trumpets blaring, the nurse drunk) I saw again her lovely indrawn abdomen where my southbound mouth had briefly paused; and those puerile hips on which I had kissed the crenulated imprint left by the band of her shorts — that last mad immortal day behind the “Roches Roses.” The twenty-five years I had lived since then, tapered to a palpitating point, and vanished.”
What does that mean?
Humbert Humbert doesn’t mention that Annabel has any “tiny dark-brown mole”. Nor Monique, the young prostitute. Nor Valeria, his 1st wife.
My thought is that Humbert Humbert presents Lolita as a reincarnation of Annabel, describing both as having brown hair and honey-coloured skin, and says “in a certain magic and fateful way Lolita began with Annabel”, as a way of “explaining” his paedophilia and gaining sympathy. Does it start from Annabel? No, likely not. Humbert Humbert, besides being a paedophile, misogynist and narcissist, is a manipulator (he himself talks about how he trifles with psychiatrists and leads them on, for example). He’s connecting his crime with a tragic loss in childhood in order to gain sympathy. Nabokov slips that in—Humbert Humbert recognising something he has not seen, to undermine his character’s theory.
The same way he slips in the Amundsen-Nansen bit in Despair to make readers realise that the narrator and Felix don’t look at all alike.