Like most readers, I found myself equally fascinated and distressed whilst reading Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. Distressed and also quite disturbed. I don’t usually regret purchasing books, but I do wish I hadn’t bought this one, because I have a feeling I won’t ever read it again. I’ve heard people say that their admiration for Nabokov’s prose, and just the experience of delving into a psychopath’s mind, was enough to allow an enjoyable read. If not enjoyable, then tolerable, at least. Me? I had to drag myself through the last quarter of the book. Perhaps it’s because Lolita is more or less the same age as me – the later, pregnant Lolita, anyway. Or perhaps because Humbert Humbert is not a cruel, vicious man but merely sleazy.
I liked the beginning well enough. Initially, his pathetic nymphet fixation was amusing, as was his childhood encounter with Annabel – or was it Annette? His marriage to that horrid Slavic woman (plus the whole taxi-driver affair) even had me laughing. I’ll go so far as to say that his pursuit of Lolita, pre- death of Charlotte Haze, was also tolerable. It was only the second half of the book that really, truly had me wanting to flush it down the toilet. Humbert’s continuous bribery. The physical, mental and emotional abuse. Lolita herself (sure she was a child, but she was a mean slut of a child).
I suppose my reaction is indicative of Nabokov’s skill as a writer. He has, indeed, successfully created a detestable paedophilic monster, who is above all else, pitifully human and flawed. Despite the author’s brilliance, though, I don’t think I’ll be returning to Lolita any time soon. It’s not Nabokov; I’m still interested in reading his other works. I just wasn’t able to handle the themes explored in this particular book.
Visit The Mookse and The Gripes for a much better review of Lolita.