“Lolita, the light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.
Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”
The novel begins with these lines and these lines have remained imprinted in my memory since the first time I had read the book six years ago. Right from the beginning Nabokov establishes his virtuosity at lyrical word play and maintains it throughout the book in a language that was not even his first language. He deftly juxtaposes a sexually provocative sentence with an extremely deep one and hence each sentence in the novel is unpredictable, keeping the reader completely engrossed. His English fluency and poetic agility outclasses almost any native author, so I can’t help but wonder how breathtakingly beautiful his Russian language will be.
Everything about the book blows my mind the plot, the characters and most of all the language (which of course is lost in the movie). But I am constantly amazed that not only had the critics initially banned the book calling it vulgar in 1960s but even today most of the people I had recommendedd the book to have described it as “pornographic”. How can people be so shallow as to not appreciate a novel that is so witty, allusive, and breathtakingly beautifully written and has a unique plot that works on so many levels. I’ve stopped recommending the book now but I will still term it as the most engaging novel I’ve ever read and one with which I am still head over heels in love with.
Published in 1955, the novel is about a disturbing tale of child abuse written as a first-hand account of a pedophile, a vile criminal Humbert Humbert who while addressing the readers as “Jury members and Judges” tries to justify his actions through an elaborate play of words and language. It is as if Nabokov had predicted the book will be judged in terms of moral character and had incorporated his defense in the trial. Sadly the judges could still not fathom the depth of his writing.
Ironically Humbert is such a smooth talker that he mesmerizes you with his words and mostly you might empathize with Humbert or at least lose your sympathy for Lolita. Lolita’s side of story is never brought to light. Humbert brings out an important point that most young girls from broken or disturbed families tend to attract attention from strangers. It is this loneliness and insecurity of those girls that is read as seductive by most men and Humbert is no different and addresses these girls as “Nymphs”. He further justifies his malaise by describing his thwarted childhood affair that he was never able to forget.
This book is a classic in every possible way and a must-read for anyone who can appreciate its depths. I am still stupefied by the skill with which Nabokov unfolds the plot from the point of view of a vile pedophile. Of how a tyrant can completely control and destroy his object of obsession in his attempt to realize and shape his own dream, completely oblivious to the desires and ambitions of the helpless child.
The current book I am reading “Reading Lolita in Tehran” mainly focuses on this aspect of the novel as this is so poignantly true from the perspective of the Iranian people controlled and destroyed by the totalitarian Islamic regime. Even Nabokov perhaps wrote this novel as an allegory of the socialist regime controlling and destroying the Russian people.
- Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (josuthers.wordpress.com)
- Smashing One’s Face Against a Mirror: Lolita (emilyjanuary.wordpress.com)
- You Gotta Read This!: Lolita (weminoredinfilm.com)
- The case for Lolita: how to recommend a favourite novel and not seem like a weirdo (cafebellow.wordpress.com)
- On rereading Lolita: celebrating the moral worth of the visual, the literary, and the beautiful (johncampbell18.wordpress.com)