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