Lolita

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.

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4 thoughts on “Lolita

  1. Yep, he’s definitely a great writer; I just wonder if all his other books are as intense as ‘Lolita’. If that’s the case, I’m not sure I’ll be trying the others either

  2. I have waffled on whether or not I should read this one. I may stay away and read other Nakokov instead. I understand he’s a great writer, but like you say, I’m not sure I can handle the themes in this one…

  3. Thanks for your comments on my review for this one, Tuesday. I must admit, your review makes me recall many of my own feelings. I think I liked the tension a bit more than you, however, because I think that we can blame Humbert Humbert on the portrayal of Lolita as a “mean slut of a child.” I am not so sure she was because we never really get her perspective on the matter but only that of a murdering pedophile trying to make his case look as clean as possible – or at least he wants to present himself not as cruel and vicious but merely as pathetic and out of control to the whims of this demon girl.

    It’s definitely a tough read. I haven’t heard that his other books are quite this tough, though, so if you liked his style, you might enjoy his other works. I haven’t read any to make that statement with complete confidence, however!

  4. Of course, it’s true that Humbert is an unreliable narrator, and his perspective would have distorted the portrayal of Lolita. Then again, I recall a passage where Humbert described adolescent girls as artless, curious, flirts who are experimenting with their sexuality – that he described quite accurately. Then he went on to describe certain girls who quite deliberately toy with men’s feelings – and that, too, I found quite accurate.

    Perhaps I described it rather crudely when I called her a ‘mean slut of a child’, but in my opinion, Lolita wasn’t quite the innocent girl-child either. Certainly, later on in the novel she becomes quite malicious, although as a direct result of Humbert’s bribery.

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