Short Book Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

My copy of Lolita was bought used, why I am telling you this, I don't know. I thought it was on my semester's books required list. I was wrong. I kept it, still. This really was about three years ago. I had tried reading the book, but was embarrassed by good ol' Humbert into shutting the pages, and arranging it on my bookcase to collect fine dust.

This summer, my eyes kept strolling to the copy. It seemed to say, just finish the book, you! So I did.

I think Nabokov a genius for this reason: writing in a style that makes  me compassionate for a pervert, and a rapist. My not wishing for him to pay for his crime, as he ought to is a little shocking to me. Usually I go to fiction for justice––perverts pay for their crimes, and the good girl gets the sexy boy! This satisfaction keeps me above the grasping zombies of a not so fair world. It's the reason why I couldn't continue reading Lolita a few years back. That, and the fact that I was slightly disgusted with myself. This time around, I decided to play the "I am human," and "nothing's ever black and white" cards.

Lolita is a little girl of eleven when Humbert meets her. He finds her to be a perfect nymphet (little girls who he deems sexually attractive in their innocence). Humbert tolerates her mother, Charlotte Haze just so he could have a few feels of Dolores (Lolita). He goes so far as to marry Charlotte and 'indirectly' kills her. Charlotte dies in a weird accident after she discovers Humbert's little journal, full of his obsessive jots on Dolores.

The language is poetic, elaborative, and beautiful. For example; "Ramsdale revisited. I approached it  from the side of the lake. The sunny noon was all eyes." For our Humbert Humbert is not only French but a literature professor. I know I ought not believe him, that I ought not dismiss the evil he kept poking at Dolores (yes, pun intended), yet I feel quite helpless in his very selective narration. I feel bad for him. Despite the elegant words, H. H seemed to have a conscience. He knew what he was doing, and his plea is that he couldn't help himself. And that's what makes it so hard to judge him as he ought to be judged. In his own way, he suffers.

Perhaps when I re-read this book again someday, I will come to other conclusions. For the present, the above is my state of mind on Nabokov's Lolita.


Comments

  1. Interesting post. First off, a quick point, I'm not sure Humbert is French - I think his exact origin is never disclosed.

    As for sympathising with him, I think Nabokov's writing brilliantly demonstrates how language can confuse and baffle. Although I can't help but feel empathetic towards other humans, I think you've got to look past all of that to the bare fact, as you rightly point out. Humbert is to be condemned for his actions, which are abhorrent, however you frame them.

    If you're interested, my review is here: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Matthew. I will be sure to read your review very soon.

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