Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

February 25, 2016 § 4 Comments

This book has been on my radar for a long time. I suspect it’s just one of those books that are so well-known that it’s either on your TBR list, or you’ve already read it before. And it’s also one of those books that even if you’ve never read it, you already know the gist of the story.

So here’s the gist: Lolita is a fictional memoir of a man who has an obsessive love affair with his stepchild. Humbert Humbert is a self-admitting paedophile who enjoys watching young girls, or nymphets, as they walk or play around the park. He gets excited thinking about them, imagining all sorts of things that many of us may feel uncomfortable talking about in the open. His object of sexual desire and obsession, of course, is a girl he calls Lolita, or Dolores Haze.

Being a fictional memoir, we only ever get to see the story from one perspective – that of Humbert Humbert’s. He tells us that he feels guilty for having these fantasies and sexual urges, all of which he continuously insists that he has no control over. And then later he tells us that he is merely responding to the signals sent out by his Lolita, the way she moves and speaks, the way she touches him when he least expects it, causing the fire to burn in his loins.

There have been so many rave reviews about this classical piece of literature, I found myself with a little self-doubt when I simply couldn’t dive in. I told myself to take it slow, to savour each phrase, to let the story lead me away. I kept waiting for that to happen, but when I got to the middle of the book, I knew I was just biding time before I finished reading it. I found myself skimming through some of the writing, even, which is not something I’m extremely proud of admitting. Was it the style? Was it the subject matter? Was it Humbert Humbert’s extremely flowery prose?

At time, I found myself thinking, is Humbert Humbert a sick, twisted pervert taking advantage of a sweet, innocent girl; or is Lolita the cunning, manipulative one, using her sexuality to draw in the sugar daddy? This was one of the most prominent questions that kept floating around in my head. And even after I finished reading the book, the author didn’t offer up any hint of an answer. And maybe there’s no real answer – it’s all relative to who is telling you the story, whose side you’re on.

I somehow wish I could have enjoyed the literature more. Maybe, like Life of Pi, I just haven’t reached the right level yet.

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§ 4 Responses to Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

  • JoV says:

    I doubt I would like this but I would read it just for curiosity sake and like you may even skim read some parts. 🙂 Thanks for an honest review, as always.

    • Michelle says:

      I have no doubt that it’s very good literature, and that I am probably just not at a level where I can appreciate it yet. But yes, to each their own. Don’t feel like you absolutely MUST read and like it. And who knows, you may find yourself loving the book, like so many others!

  • sakurakura says:

    When I read this years ago, I was surprised to find it a beautifully written book and not as shocking as I expected. However, I’m not sure how I would feel now after having read a lot around the book and knowing a lot more about the subject matter. Essentially it’s about paedophilia and I don’t know how it can be sugarcoated. I think it is one of those books that are divisive and it’s interesting to see what others think of it.

    • Michelle says:

      It is, isn’t it? I’ve read reviews about this book where they say they simply cannot empathise with Humbert Humbert, whereas others just describe how beautifully it has been written. The subject matter is a disturbing one, and even today with our supposedly more “open” dialogue, it’s still difficult to talk about it without ruffling some feathers.

      I think Humbert Humbert’s character is one that’s really difficult to love and understand, but in a way, the author managed to get me on his side every once in a while. And that’s powerful.

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