I knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; but I also knew she would not be forever Lolita.

– Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

About

Perhaps in a strange, fateful way, Humbert’s inherent singularity and diabolical obsession with Lolita began with his child-love Annabel.

Humbert Humbert, a European scholar and college professor in America, is haunted by the memory of a lost adolescent love. A surprising turn of events upsets and ultimately wrecks his life when he disgracefully falls in love with Dolores Haze (nicknamed Lolita), the twelve year old daughter of his landlady. Obsessed and totally consumed by her thoughts, he’s ready to employ any grotesque scheme to posses his Lolita forever.

 Upside

Nabokov weaves a delicate net of lyrical prose to enthral his readers; Lolita is deeply expressive and intensely poetic. The story is told in first person, by Humbert himself, when he was held captive in jail. Such is the power of Humbert’s soulful utterances, that more than once the reader will nod in a scandalised affirmation of  Humbert’s vile desires.

It is disturbing to note that Nabokov’s obsessed pedophile isn’t entirely revolting or disgusting, but is someone you want understand. Humbert cleverly fools himself and the reader into believing that he is a caring, passionate lover who wants to protect his Lolita.

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His justifications, his reasons and his outrageous declaration that it was Lolita who seduced him are nauseating to the reader’s human mind. Humbert is a sinful planner. He systematically secludes his prey and fills her with self-doubt and fear and robs her of a normal childhood. Inspite of this, the reader is unable to truly hate the pedophile.

While the reader is tempted to sympathise with Humbert’s sad past, Lolita almost always comes across as crass, and unworthy of much compassion. As distasteful it seems, at one point I was almost tempted to believe that Humbert and Dolores were part of a tragic love affair that just couldn’t happen for a million reasons.

Clearly, Nabokov is a master of deception. He has the reader hooked, confused, shocked- gasping for more. Lolita is a brilliant, brilliant character study.

Downside

Nabokov’s Lolita asks disagreeable questions.

To justify his conduct, Humbert directs the reader’s attention to the fact that in many tribal cultures, it is acceptable for a grown man to marry a 12 year old girl. He pleads that before he ever laid his dirty man-hands on Dolores, the precocious nymphet had already had sex with another boy. He desperately wants the reader to believe that 12 year old girls are ready to mate and cites numerous examples where young girls are sold by families in exchange of land, cattle, gold and whatnot.

While this may make the reader uncomfortable, I wouldn’t go so far as to classify this as a drawback of reading Lolita. Being compelled to tackle these questions of morality in today’s modern society is a part of what makes this book a great read.

I would say…

Pick this one up! I’ll give Lolita a full five stars for its creative world play. I cannot recall any other book that simultaneously evoked such conflicting feelings of disgust and charm in me. I will gladly recommend Lolita to anybody who’s willing to challenge his or her sanity.


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13 thoughts on “Lolita

  1. Ginger and Aeshwarya : Your discourse (I would not label it an argument )on this post is quite mature and life would be better if we all just accommodated each other’s opinions and perspectives and this is a proper example of giving each other space to express…

    Nice review though! Aeshwarya….

    Like

  2. Agree, it’s an excellent review you sell the book very well … BUT sadly I worked with the Lolita’s, children and babies that are violated daily by such pedophiles. You may see it as a talented piece of writing but I would question how a non-pedophile could understand such dark urges and all the arguments such people make for their violations.

    I would strongly urge people NOT to read or encourage such treachery and abuse! Good literature it maybe but we don’t need to feed the dark side.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re very right in what you’re saying, and I in no way agree with the justifications offered in the book. Pedophilia is disgusting and ghastly, there’s no arguing that.

      But I loved the book and the writing for precisely that- while reading the book I found myself swayed with the protagonist’s point of view. That’s why I said it’s a masterpiece, because it does the unexpected.

      Yes Lolita is filled with treachery and abuse, but why should a work of literature be shunned on those grounds alone? Yes it does approach a very, very serious issue with a different, revolting perspective, but as a reader I don’t see why that should stop me from reading this book.

      I believe books generally don’t encourage bad or good behaviour, they only tell a story. And Lolita was a good story, and I did enjoy it.

      And even after reading the book, my perception of pedophiles hasn’t changed even one bit. I still see them as violators and disgusting.

      Well, this such goes on to show how differently one book can be perceived by two people! Thank you for your comment 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. By allowing them to publish mainstream is encouraging them from my perspective but then you haven’t seen the long term damage they do to so many peoples lives.

        You are most welcome to delete my comments but appreciate you allowing me a different perspective. You maybe encouraging me to write something from the violated persons side … see if I can match his literary skills, could be a good challenge. As most of them would struggle to find a voice.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’d never delete your comments! I may have strong opinions but I always welcome all perspectives. If you don’t like the book, you don’t like the book- and that’s fine by me. We’re all different and think differently. I respect that, and I respect you.

        Yes, I agree that abused children seldom find a voice. In fact, I believe pedophilia does lasting damage to the child’s system.

        In Lolita, you see the dark side. You see it as encouraging, you see it as damaging.

        While I see the story as a work of art. Yes pedophilia is damaging and disgusting. But I don’t think literature is disgusting or damaging. And I see Lolita as just that, a work of literary fiction.

        Again, I respect your opinion of the book and I’m certainly not trying to change it. You’ve worked with abused children, perhaps therefore you feel the need to defend them. And we all need to defend them. In my mind too, pedophilia can have no justifications whatsoever.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I really don’t know about Nabokov’s life, but I’m sure that he would’ve been able to write this story without actually being a pedophile. A wild imagination is what makes a writer, writer- and this story is most likely his imagination at work. There’s no evidence to prove otherwise, or is there any?

        Calling the author a pedophile is like saying that Emily Brönte wasn’t really a nun because she could conjure up the diabolical character of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights!

        On a side note- the poem is really heartfelt, no child should have to go through this. 😦

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      4. Your review indicated a keenly accurate depiction of how a pedophiles mind works, how he justifies his behaviour and belittles he’s so called ‘beloved’ victim. Nothing was about it was ‘wild imagination’ … he has spent a massive amount of time researching a pedophiles motivations to depict it so accurately.

        Liked by 1 person

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