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Humbert Humbert - scholar, aesthete and romantic - has fallen completely and utterly in love with Dolores Haze, his landlady's gum-snapping, silky skinned twelve-year-old daughter. Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita, Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance; but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere, he will carry her off on a desperate cross-country misadventure, all in the name of Love. Hilarious, flamboyant, heart-breaking and full of ingenious word play, Lolita is an immaculate, unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion and lust.

307 pages, Paperback

First published September 1, 1955

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About the author

Vladimir Nabokov

709 books12.8k followers
Russian: Владимир Владимирович Набоков .

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, also known by the pen name Vladimir Sirin, was a Russian-American novelist. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist. He also made significant contributions to lepidoptery, and had a big interest in chess problems.

Nabokov's Lolita (1955) is frequently cited as his most important novel, and is at any rate his most widely known one, exhibiting the love of intricate wordplay and descriptive detail that characterized all his works.

Lolita was ranked fourth in the list of the Modern Library 100 Best Novels; Pale Fire (1962) was ranked 53rd on the same list, and his memoir, Speak, Memory (1951), was listed eighth on the publisher's list of the 20th century's greatest nonfiction. He was also a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction seven times.

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Profile Image for Ian "Marvin" Graye.
874 reviews2,267 followers
December 7, 2017
Between the Covers

After re-reading "Lolita", I asked my local bookseller if she'd ever read it.
She replied firmly, “No…and I’m not going to either. He’s a paedophile.”
A bit taken aback, I enquired further, “Who? The author or the character?”
Fortunately, she replied, “The character.”
For me, this exchange showed how much “Lolita” can still sharply divide opinion, even within lovers of fiction.
This wasn’t the conversation I had been hoping for.
I had read “Lolita” in a couple of days, less time than my work commitments normally allow me, but I found it incredibly easy to read.
Even though I was taking notes, even though I was conscious that Nabokov was playing games (even if I didn’t always know what game), even though there were unfamiliar words I should have looked up, I was constantly drawn towards the conclusion.
I wanted to talk to someone about my experience straight away.
My cheeks were still flushed, my nerve endings were still tingling, I had experienced the “spine thrill of delight”, I felt like I had just had sex with a book.
Now, not being a smoker, all I needed was some post-coital conversation.
And there was no one around to converse with.
And the book wasn’t giving away any more of its secrets than it already had.
Nor was it going to tell me I had been a Good Reader or that it had appreciated my attentiveness.
It was back between the covers, challenging me to start again.

Three Act Word Play

At a superficial level, “Lolita” is a relatively straight-forward novel.
Once you know that it concerns sexual relations between 37 year old Humbert Humbert and 12 year old Dolores “Lolita” Hayes, you just about know the plot.
There’s a beginning, a middle and an end.
A grooming, a consummation, an aftermath.
Nabokov makes of his material a three act play.
And he does so playfully, seductively, lyrically, charmingly, amusingly, dangerously.
To this day, I cannot look at Humbert’s initials “H.H.” without pronouncing them in German, “Ha Ha”, and wondering whether the joke is on us.
Beneath the skin of the novel, there is much more.
There is a whole complex living organism.
You can lose yourself within its arms for days, weeks, months, a lifetime.
As long as your love of wordplay, your love of words and play, will permit you.
Again, at a superficial level, there is an almighty conflict between morality and aesthetics happening between the pages.
Whether or not Nabokov deliberately put the conflict there, he put the subject matter there.
We, the readers, can supply our own conflict in the way we read his novel.
Nabokov knew the subject matter would inflame us, if not our desires, then at least our morals, our sense of righteousness.
Morality and aesthetics are intertwined within the fabric of the novel.
They embrace each other in one long death roll, just like Humbert Humbert and Clare Quilty.
We watch their interaction, open-mouthed, open-minded, but ultimately they have to be pulled apart or separated.
When they are together, they are one.
When they are apart, they are each other’s double.

The Morality of the Story

There is no doubt that sexual relations between an adult and a minor are not just immoral, but criminal as well.
That is an unquestionable fact.
From a legal point of view, the motive of the adult is irrelevant to the proof of the crime.
The consent of the minor is irrelevant to the proof of the crime.
If Humbert had been charged with an offence of sexual relations with a minor, he would have had no legal defence.
Any question as to whether Lolita really seduced Humbert would have been irrelevant.
In fact, the evidence might not even have been admissible, except potentially as part of the determination of the penalty.
In other words, even if it was relevant to penalty, it was not relevant to guilt.
Because morality is a social construct that depends on collective endorsement, he had no moral defence either.
The personal views of the individual are not really that relevant to society’s determination that an act is immoral.
The choice of the individual is to comply or offend.

Of Traps and Cages

Humbert offended not just once, but untold numerous times over two years.
He carefully planned his seduction, he set his trap, he caught his prey, even if someone might want to argue that this 12 year old seductress walked voluntarily into the trap.
Having freed Lolita from the trap, he imprisoned her in a cage, and repeated his crime.
Again, someone could argue that she had plenty of opportunities to flee the cage (which she eventually did).
But Humbert surrounded Lolita with an elaborate system of self-doubt that convinced her that she would become a ward of the state if they were found out.

The Legality of the Confession

“Lolita” is written from Humbert’s point of view.
It is not just a recollection in his mind, it is a formal, written document.
He sat down and wrote it in 56 days between his capture in 1952 (charged only with the crime of murdering Clare Quilty) and his death in prison before his trial could occur.
For me, the written document is a fascinating choice of literary device to tell the story.
The document becomes a book within a book.
While Nabokov obviously wrote it, all that he purports to do is sandwich it between a Foreword and a (much later) Afterword.
This device sets up an interesting relationship between Humbert and the reader.
For Humbert, it is akin to a confession or a witness statement.
To this extent, what he confesses to is clearly enough to convict him of the crime of murder.
However, in it, he also sets out details of crimes that, for whatever reason, he was never charged with.
If his lawyer had read the document while he was still alive, he would probably have excised all of the other confessions, because they would have prejudiced his client’s case (at least with respect to penalty).

The Role of the Jury

For the reader, the confession defines our relationship to the events that are described.
We are cast in the role of a member of the Jury.
This device allows heinous moral and criminal acts to be described and read and examined within a legal and therefore legitimate framework.
In a sense, the book becomes a report of sorts on legal proceedings.
We become legitimate observers and listeners to something that might otherwise have been prurient and offensive and illegal.
Yet, we have to do our duty and participate in the legal process, because it is an important part of the justice system.
Even though we have a legitimate interest in participating, I wonder whether we are still voyeuristic.
Nabokov has trapped us in a game that persuades us that it is serious, but ends up being just as playful and perverse as the subject matter of the crime.
In a way, Nabokov makes us complicit in a crime, if not Humbert’s crime, then perhaps our own thought crime.
It is also material that, by the time Humbert’s confession is read, both Humbert and Lolita have died of natural causes.
Humbert speaks from the other side of death.
Nobody is alive, nobody can be hurt any more than they already have.

The Confessions of an Unreliable Narrator (The Fox and the Peacock)

I explored these issues, because I wanted to understand Humbert’s motivation for his confession.
He is effectively pleading guilty.
I don’t see any prospect for an insanity defence, even though he seemed to have been in and out of sanatoria at times of crisis.
Equally, I don’t think that anything he reveals would reduce the penalty for the murder.
To do so, he only needed to focus on his concern that Quilty had wronged Lolita in some way even worse than his own actions.
But to confess all of these other crimes seems to be counter-productive.
Similarly, I don’t think he was lying about the detail, I think that he was telling the truth, and that he was telling the truth, so that he could be understood, no more, no less.
Humbert’s confession is not just the fiction of a dirty old man, it is not false or fabricated, it is not a mirage.
No matter how immoral, no matter how deluded, no matter how selfish and narcissistic, it is his fact, his reality, his truth, his burden, his shame.
His actions were the pursuit of a rational man, not an insane one.
He was film-star handsome, educated, intellectual, talented, witty, charming, calculating, calculated, dangerous.
There is no doubt that he was a talented performer, an exceptional player.
However, Humbert is not an actor wearing a mask, performing some other fictional character or version of himself.
I believe that we are seeing him for what he really is.
He is as cunning, tricky, sly as a fox and as refined, elaborate, attractive as a peacock.
His decoration, his ornamentation is part of him, his life, his loins, his sin, his soul.
In pursuit of Lolita, he was prepared to lie and deceive in order to achieve his goal.
I don’t believe that he was prepared to lie to us, if only because there was no point in lying.
When occasionally he questions the veracity of his own account, it is solely to question the accuracy of his memory.
However, he didn’t need to tell lies to achieve leniency, he didn’t need to tell the truth for some ulterior motive.
By confessing to anything, he would only be found guilty of crimes he hadn’t been charged with in addition to the charge of murder he had been accused of.
There was no point in confessing to anything extra, other than to tell the truth as he saw it.
It wasn’t going to get him any sympathy or reduce his penalty, if anything, his disclosures would aggravate his penalty.
To this extent, I don’t consider Humbert an “unreliable narrator”.
I realise that some might respond that paedophiles are habitual liars and can’t help themselves.
That might well be the case, but I think it is our horror at his crime, our moral judgment affecting our assessment of the whole of the person and shaping our (aesthetic) response to the book and the character.
Perhaps naively, I want to find some good in him.
Ultimately, whether or not Humbert’s love was morally wrong, I believe that he wanted us to understand his love and what he learned about his love by the end of his story.

What We Talk about When We Talk about Humbert’s Love

Technically, the sexual relations between Humbert and Lolita are not an example of “paedophilia” (which is a sexual preference for a pre-pubescent).
While nothing moral or legal turns on the distinction, the sexual relations constitute “hebephilia” (which is a sexual preference for a person in the early stage of puberty).
The name derives from “Hebe”, the Greek goddess of youth.
Her name means youth or prime of life, and she personified both youth and immortality.
She was the cup bearer who served nectar to the Olympian Gods to give them everlasting youth.

First Part (Obsessive Love)

For me, during the first part of the book, Humbert’s love was forbidden, but genuine.
It was a transgressive love, in that it was a love of the particular aesthetic form that youth takes between the ages of ten and fifteen.
The body is at its most perfect, it has not started to age, to wrinkle, to fill out, to droop, to deteriorate.
After that age, the body starts to age, and he finds that physically unattractive (as in the case of his first wife and Lolita's mother).
OK, we all make choices about our love objects.
How can we account for our choices?
There’s no accounting for love.
Still, at the heart of this aesthetic approach to love is a fear or disgust at aging and mortality.
There is an unreality, a lack of understanding and acceptance of the cycle of life and death, a Peter Pan desire to stay forever young, forever immortal.
I also think there is a self-love or narcissism inherent in this aesthetic view.
I love the young, because I love the perfect form of my own youth.
Since my youth, I have fallen, morally and physically.
I therefore have to preserve the visage of my own youth.
I wonder whether it is only possible to have this view if you have never had your own biological child.
Parenthood is an education in the reality of aging.
It is an illusion to believe that you can live and defeat it.
But tell that to the cosmetics industry.
So far I have talked of love in the abstract.
In the first part of the book, I struggled to understand Humbert’s love and the above is what I came up with.
I won’t say I had a sympathy for him, but I think I understood him and his love.
I even understood his obsessiveness.
How many of us, during the first throes of love, trap and oppress our love object, so much so that we are not able to see how oppressive we were, until after the relationship has been consummated, or morphed into something more mature or ended?
However, things started to change at the end of the first part (the consummation) and into the second part (the imprisonment).
Of course the love had to be consummated, but as unexceptional as the description of the event was, it highlighted the reality that the first part was a trap for Lolita to walk into.
As playful and lyrical as the language might have been, it was sinister in intent.

Second Part (Captivating Love)

During the second part, having captured Lo, Humbert makes it clear that his love will last no more than three years, to be precise, 1 January, 1947 to 1 January, 1950, which are effectively her 12th to 15th birthdays.
After this, statistically at least, Lo will morph out of her nymphet form.
So Humbert's love is solely for a definitive phase of her entire life, after which he expects and intends to abandon her.
During this phase, Humbert’s goal is to maintain Lolita in captivity, to ensure her availability for him alone.
There is no fairy tale promise of “happily ever after” or “’til death do us part” in this love action.
There is no love or concern for the other, only selfishness and narcissism.
I have tried to view the definition of beauty that appeals to Humbert as an aesthetic issue.
I have tried to divorce it from morality, so I can understand it better.
However, whether I think of it in terms of aesthetics or morality, obsession or love, the fact that it could be switched on and off at such identifiable times turned me against Humbert.
He is in control of this feeling called love, at least, he knows with clinical precision when he will return to “normality” or a state of not loving.
His love was a drug that he took too knowingly, he knew precisely when the feeling of the drug would wear off.
So, I started to believe that there was no loss of self in his love.
Instead, it was a heightened or gross act of narcissism.
By extension, there was no sense in which he tried to "satisfy" Lo personally or sexually.
There was no sense of a mutually satisfying relationship or intercourse (although to be fair, he doesn't go into the sexual detail, except in terms of physical exertion).
However, I got the sense that, when it came to consummating his love, it was just about sticking his dick into his love object.
OK, lots of sexual relationships can be reduced to this fundamental penetrative act.
Some men see femaleness as no more than a receptacle for maleness and its fluid manifestation, the cup into which they spill their seed.
However, I started to feel in the second part that Humbert's aim was to defile or despoil the beauty that had appealed to him in the first part (even if it was transgressive).
And the three year zone of enchantment highlighted to me that Humbert would just go in search of the next beautiful nymphet to stick his dick into.
So it became increasingly apparent to me that he was a serial despoiler of beauty, not a genuine lover or admirer of beauty.
There is a hatred or disgust hotwired into this love.
You don't normally hate the flowers in your vase when it comes time to remove them and throw them in the dustbin.
But you get the sense that Humbert would have been disgusted by his former love objects, his objet d'obsession, the moment that calendar clicked over.
Obviously, this same disgust or loss of interest appears in more traditional relationships.
It could lie behind the mid-life crisis when the guy runs away with the younger woman.
It could explain the inability to accept the inevitability of aging, at least in our partner.
It could explain we males who still picture ourselves as the immutable 20 year old who deserves a young and nubile partner (no matter how soft or old or fat or ugly we have become).
So Humbert’s love can teach the rest of us something about our own love.

Last Part (Adult Love Denied)

I wrote most of my comments about the second part before I had finished reading the last part of the novel.
I have to emphasise that most of what turned me against Humbert came from my reaction to his own words.
Neither he nor Nabokov held back the material that would make me hate him.
Still, I read on, firmly in their constrictive embrace, until chapter 29, when Humbert and the seventeen year old, married and pregnant Dolores meet again.
What you think of Humbert and his love, whether or not you think he is lying, depends on your interpretation of the confessions in this chapter:

“…there she was with her ruined looks and her adult, rope-veined narrow hands and her gooseflesh white arms, and her shallow ears, and her unkempt armpits, there she was (my Lolita!), hopelessly worn at seventeen, with that baby… and I looked and I looked at her, and knew as clearly as I know I am to die, that I loved her more than anything I had ever seen or imagined on earth, or hoped for anywhere else…
“What I used to pamper among the tangled vines of my heart…had dwindled to its essence: sterile and selfish vice, all that I cancelled and cursed…
“You may jeer at me, and threaten to clear the court, but until I am gagged and half-throttled, I will shout my poor truth.
“I insist the world know how much I loved my Lolita, this Lolita, pale and polluted, and big with another’s child, but still gray-eyed, still sooty-lashed, still auburn and almond, still Carmencita, still mine.”

This is just one part of Humbert’s journey.
He realised that he still loved her outside the hebephile zone.
However, he still clung to “his” Lolita, the Lolita of his deluded version of love.
Obviously, Dolores is and never was “his” version of reality, she was her own person, and she declines his love a second time.
Only then does he recognise that he “did not know a thing about [his] darling’s mind” or that “a North American girl-child named Dolores Haze had been deprived of her childhood by a maniac”.
Then he quotes “an old poet” (presumably Nabokov himself):

“The moral sense in mortals is the duty
“We have to pay on mortal sense of beauty.”

In other words, you can’t just indulge an aesthetic sense of beauty at the expense of a real human being, it comes attached to and constrained by morality.
Morality, taboo and the law work together to protect innocence and beauty from those who would defile and despoil it.
He was not above the law, he was no Nietzschian Superman.
He was the fool in his own play.

The Tragedy

There are suggestions that Nabokov saw Humbert’s story as a tragedy, that Humbert only realised that he genuinely loved Dolores by conventional standards when it was too late.
That might be so, but Humbert only had himself to blame.
He was a victim of his own hand, and his tragedy was nothing compared with the one he made Dolores endure, so that he, too selfishly for love, could have his “Lolita”.
Profile Image for Jason.
114 reviews626 followers
March 15, 2017
Nymph. Nymphet. Nymphetiquette. Nymphology. Nymphism. I will never think of 12 year old girls the same way. There’s a stain on my brain. The power of this book is that it’s creepy and taboo, but the pedophilia and incest is so damn plausible. There’s a criminal, upsetting proclivity of the subject matter, but the whole thing is oiled with reason--SAY IT AINT SO. It’s deviant, queer, puerile, and yet ever so human, darkly human, perverted in the corner.

Lolita lingers in my mind, like an accidental glance at the mid-day sun. I believe this book will have a permanent effect on me. I’m thankful, but cautious. It’s a book that I experienced, not so much as read. There are 2 components to this book that radically affected me, the writing and the subject matter.

The Writing
I have never read another book written quite like Lolita. The writing has depth, layer upon layer, strata against strata, texture among texture. It’s a palimpsest of clues and anagrams and reference. The author has absolute command of the English and French and Latin language. And yet, among the $4 dollar words and bourgeoisie lit crit, Nabakov plays with the language. He invents words. He hyphenates them. He nymphorizes them. It’s a gamboling and frolicking story in the rarefied air of an unrestrained, unapologetic and unadulterated polyhistoric writer. It’s subtle and raw at the same time; it’s pure. Pure, like what happens in your neighborhood behind closed doors, just before an arrest. He incorporates a dry, brittle sense of humor--even a bit of sass. He taunts the reader to follow. He dares the reader to like and enjoy Humbert Humbert. He pokes you in the eye. He scandalizes you, but with a pen that is at once brutal and sensitive, but always careful. There are echoes of Joyce and Poe.

The story is a retrospective from...from...from where? What? Prison. Ostensibly. And yet, there hasn’t been a trial yet--no judgement. Nabakov tantalizes you, “ladies and gentlemen of the jury,” to pass judgement on Humbert Humbert yourself. Are you willing? Or will you just turn your head, wincing?

The writing is breathless, eloquent, exacting, alluring, inventive, sexy, pleading, conceited, lurid, savory, languid, and slyly self-deprecating. The author is flagrant, unapologetic, a dandy even. He whiffles the writing in so many little stylistic flourishes. He writes sentences and paragraphs in ways that I would never have guessed to try. It’s insanely periodic writing; I grab my head akimbo in pure awe of the sentences. I peeked at an annotated version for 20 pages at a local big-box book store. Wow, there’s so many levels to this writing, of so much I was ignorant. Did you know that under the shocking story of pedophilia, Nabakov is carrying on a paper chase with clues on almost every page? Yes, there’s a whole other plane of conversation hidden below the written words--grammatically, semantically, nymphatically. They’re buried in the french words, the double entendres, the onomatopoeia, the puns, the metonymy, the symbols, the rhyming, the nymphventions. Palimpsest “ladies and gentlemen.”

The Subject Matter
We all know Lolita is supposed to be shocking, revolting even, many people not able to finish it. Titillating, serious fiction about pedophilia is the clear edge of the literary envelope, something banned in many different communities, even today. At this particular time in our democracy, as one of the freest countries in the world, and the most progressive, we champion human rights and place a huge penalty on crimes against minors. In this spirit, we are supposed to decry and detest the subject matter in this book, and lambast the author. People are arrested and put on community rosters for crimes against minors. This 300+ page book chronicles a crime against a minor. Nabakov makes this an even more difficult sexual arrangement for his readers to contemplate, because the 12 year old is an eager, compliant and willing partner to the crime.

In Lolita the protagonist is a criminal and his actions unforgivable. BUT, if there was any method to his madness, it would have to be this:

Humans share a cephalization process in common with most vertebrates. We developed cerebral hemispheres several million years ago (progressing beyond our closest ancestors), and more recently than that, humans learned how to use the cerebral cortex to reason, judge, cognate, and intuit. But, hundreds of millions of years ago, way down the taxonomic branch, we shared with other vertebrates a common mesencephalon and rhombencephalon, the midbrain and hindbrain. Tucked up under our marvelous, modern cortex, the midbrain and hindbrain, called the brain stem, are comprised of the pons, cerebellum, and yes, the MEDULLA OBLONGATA! These are ancient, compact organs. They are the most ‘animal’ part of our brains. They are in control of the lower order mental functions, the basic mechanistic functions upon which everything else depends. You can lose part of your cortex and still function as a human. You cannot, however, lose any of your brain stem without losing basic animal function. The brain stem is innately integral to life.

It’s from this midbrain we get reflex, instinct, coordinated movement, sex drive, fight-or-flight, and a whole range of metabolic regulation for all organs in the rest of the body. The impulses (the input, the direction, the priority) originating in these Mesozoic Era brain organs are powerful. The cerebral cortex would be remiss to block an impulse from this deep, ancient brain--even if it could stop the impulse in time. It’s difficult for our human cortex to constrain an electrical input from the animal brain stem. What comes from the stem is automatically life-sustaining, life-preserving, and high priority. The cortex usually plays catch-up to brain stem messaging.

But humans do it all the time. It’s called reason, judgement, cognition, and conscience. It’s called being civilized. It’s keeping in check our vertebrate impulses.

Enter Humbert Humbert. He suffers an atavistic urge to procreate with young nymphets. This is a social problem driven and turbocharged by the midbrain. He understands (his cortex understands) that the culture of the late 1940s and early 1950s find this taboo and perverse, definitely criminal. But our poor Humberto doesn’t care. He reasons with his midbrain, and pleads to us, "the jury." In the not too distant past within our own Western culture, and certainly in modern cultures of tribal peoples, 12 year old girls are ready to mate. Lolita has already menstruated and had sex with a boy her age. In many cultures of the world, Lolita would be given up as a wife in exchange for dowries of cattle, land, political favor. The whole story, then, brings this American taboo to a moral question. And its a question that you--modern citizen--find uncomfortable, like I do.

Even more disturbing, Nabakov makes Humby Humberty a caring, loving, protective paternal figure that wishes Lolita the best in life. There is no direct, lewd reference to the act of sex; nothing salacious; nothing pornographic. No, that would be too easy to damn Humbo to the devil. Instead, Nabakov explores the possibility that real love may exist betwain the tween.

I’m not too happy to report a phenomenon that happens to men of sexual capacity, always and forever. It’s an impulse from the midbrain, and it pushes through all that civilization-ing. It’s happened to all men (I know because it’s been a topic of conversation in many different social settings to which I was eye-witness). Take for example a young woman of 16 or 17 years. From afar I see a body in bikini, I see a tight, athletic form, I see a bronzed body wearing clothes much too revealing, and immediately the midbrain excites the male sex drive. Upon closer approach, I’m horrified to see that this nubile figure is much too young for me. Am I perverted? Criminal thoughts? I don’t think so. The midbrain wants to ensure successful mating, and for hundreds of millions of years, sexual mating, to be maximally effective, and to outlast environmental exigencies, was driven down to the earliest age that could conceive offspring. So that dastardly urge men experience around cheerleaders, or girls at the beach that look as healthy and trim as fresh gazelles--it’s not right dammit, and most of us keep it in check, but there it is and it’s nagging, and I wish it away. But no, I think it will remain and haunt me at times like it haunts all men--your men--your brothers and your fathers and your lovers. I look away in disgust of myself, call myself a ‘dirty old man,’ whatever it takes to recalibrate my thoughts. It happens occasionally--that oogling--but I keep it in check. But if you think society has civilized itself away from this midbrain urge, type into google the words: “list of sexual predators in my area.” You will see a Mesozoic characteristic come alive. {note to self, this paragraph may need to be reworded...a very good chance most people will misconstrue it...as if I was pardoning the midbrain urge...or worse, that I pardon Humbert Humbert...not the case at all}

So that’s why at the beginning I said this story was so damn plausible and upsetting and ‘oiled with reason,’ and darkly human. Pedophilia and incest has occurred, is occurring, and will always occur. That beast of a midbrain!

A very important read for 20th century literature.

New words: incondite, contretemps, swain, alembic, tombal, purblind, dulcet, treacle, edusively, viatic, selenian
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
September 15, 2023
Now, this is going to be embarrassing to admit.

As we all should know, reading and enjoying a book is largely about interpretation. People are not the same and we all view things differently; one individual might see a relationship in a book as "passionate" while another could see it as "damaging". When characters make bad decisions, some will view it as stupidity and others will view it as an accurate representation of humanity's imperfections. Not only that, but time often changes the way one person sees things. A teenager does not usually have the same outlook on life and relationships that someone of thirty does, and neither of them have the same outlook as someone of seventy does.

So it's time that I admit, when reading this at thirteen, my younger brain actually romanticised Humbert's depravity and saw the relationship between him and Lolita as some tragic love affair. It was (surprise, surprise) Tatiana's review that made me wonder if I'd had a screw loose when reading this years ago. Her interpretation was so far from what I remembered that I simply had to find time for a re-read. This summer, I did just that. I am going to point the shameful finger of blame at my age when I first read it-- I was as fooled by Humbert as the young Lolita was.

Humbert is not a reliable narrator; his declaration that Lolita was responsible for seducing him is repulsive and wrong. Because, in the end, an adult has no excuse for having sex with a child, even if they're walking around half-naked and offering themselves up - adults have a responsibility not to take advantage of children. And I now realise this case is no exception. This is not some tragic romantic tale about forbidden love; it is the story of how a grown man repeatedly raped a young girl. The fact that it is so easy to be taken in by him either says something about how brilliant a writer Nabokov is (which he is), or how much society still loves to blame the victim.

I don't know whether to feel better about my original feelings or be horrified that even the description for the audiobook describes the novel as: "a love story almost shocking in its beauty and tenderness." And I also know that I have no right to criticise other people who saw it in such a way, but I would ask you to read it again, to look beyond Humbert's snivelling and self-pity, to see the man who considers murdering a woman so he can be free to have sex with her twelve year old daughter, the man who feels sorry for himself when a young girl doesn't want to have sex with him because she's still hurt from the last time. Is that love? Maybe it was for a thirteen year old looking through Humbert's perverted eyes, but I'm glad I understand it better now.

Nabokov has written a brilliant and disturbing novel; my opinion of it hasn't changed in that respect. I found it surprisingly easy to read and became absorbed quickly - even all those years ago. His portrayal of Humbert's perverted mind is scarily good, perhaps even too good if people can so easily be convinced to side with a paedophile - which is often regarded as the ultimate crime of all, isn't it? Even cold-blooded murderers go after prisoners who've messed with kids. And, as much as I feel ashamed for being so taken in by Humbert, I know that it's not just me who was fooled. Hell, even the GR description proves it. But, believe me, Lolita is a victim and no amount of saddening flashbacks to Humbert's past can change that.

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Profile Image for Tatiana.
1,404 reviews11.7k followers
April 5, 2020
I wasn't even going to write a review of Lolita after finishing it, because, honestly, how many reviews does this classic need? That is, until I started pocking around and reading what others have to say about it. Many reactions to this book are puzzling to me. In this world of Jerry Sanduskys and such, there are still people who find this "erotic," who in the end feel some kind of compassion toward the narrator, who think that Lolita was the one who seduced and manipulated poor Humbert? Well, I beg to differ.

Lolita is as erotic as Speak is pornographic. As for favorable opinions of Humbert, I guess it is possible this effect can be attributed to Nabokov's mastery of deception. Clearly, Humbert still, half a century after the novel's publication, manages to fool readers, and himself, into believing that he is a dedicated, caring lover, wounded and changed by an early tragic romance. Only occasionally does the truth bleed through his self-delusion - Lolita's wistful glance at a child sitting on his father's lap, a simple act that is forever sallied by Humbert's filth, her disinterest in life, her resignation to satisfy him for pocket money and permission to participate in a school play. No, Humbert did not fool me into feeling sorry for him.

On a technical level, Lolita deserves full 5 stars - the language, the wit, the world play! - I don't think I've ever read anything like this before. But emotionally this look into a pedophile's psyche is so disgusting, I can't quite bring myself to rate it so. Humbert is so sickly real to me, with his apologies, justifications of his behavior, cowardice, sob stories and bending of reality, how does an author create someone like this? How did Nabokov get such an intimate knowledge of someone so despicable?
Profile Image for Rolls.
130 reviews319 followers
March 13, 2007
An old friend used to say that "Ulysses" was a good book to read but not a good book to "read". After reading "Lolita" I understand what he meant.

Nabokov was a man obsessed with word games and this book is crammed cover to cover with many brilliant examples. Language delighted the man and that certainly comes across. What makes this acheivement even more amazing was that English was his third or fourth language. It is mind blowing that he or anyone could write so fluidly in a "foreign" tongue. If this was enough to make a novel great then this would be one of my top ten.

But what if, as a reader, you demand that an author make his characters compelling and the narrative involving? I would say then that this book is not for you. Humbert and Dolores Haze (Lolita) only ever (to my mind) become three dimensional at odd moments here and there. He comes off as a mincing, foppish but ultimately unbelievable sort. I never bought into him until very near the end when for a few sentences Nabokov makes his remorse credible. But it is too late for that. I was already annoyed as hell by his rococo narration. The character of Lolita as well is shrill and one note through out. Only intermittently does she come across as worthy of compassion.

As for the story, once the seduction takes place it loses a lot of its forward momentum. It begins to feel repetitive and only comes alive again when Humbert reaches the very end of his self control and attempts to lash out at one he believes wronged him. All in all I think this is a book that could stand to lose about fifty pages.

There is much to love about it though. It could have been truly replusive. Nabokov knew that his concept was already off putting and that the execution need not be so. Rather than serving up spewing fluids and hungry orifices he treats us to healthy doses of wit and charm. Bravo!

"Lolita" is obviously literature with a capital "L." It is a work by a man of letters who happened to be a genius - for that reason alone it deserves reading. Just don't be surprised that once you're done you don't feel like recommending it to anyone.
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
720 reviews1,113 followers
July 6, 2020
Update: 06/07/2020

Having just finished A Dark Vanessa, a book I rated 5 stars I am even more certain of my hatred of this book.

Any book where the reader is forced to feel empathy for a pedophile just doesn’t do it for me. You can call me narrow minded if you like but if it were up to me they would all be castrated and set on fire and I would feel no sadness about it.

Go read A Dark Vanessa for a fantastic portrayal of an abusive relationship between a girl and a grown man. Not this shit.

P.s I’m probably gonna get loads of shit for this review, I don’t care. If you liked it great, I’m glad you got something out of it. But don’t come at me.


I’m thinking of DNFing. I’ve been told this is an important book and it makes you think. But the subject matter is just vile and it’s making me feel ill. I’m not enjoying it and I don’t know if I can carry on with it. Maybe one day I’ll try again but today is not that day.
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,119 reviews44.8k followers
April 28, 2020
Pushing the boundaries of what acceptable literature can actually be, Lolita is very much a piece of art.

For many years I kept hearing about this book, the content sounding disturbing and perhaps even slightly fascinating. It’s a book that’s central theme is one of the darkest elements of mankind: paedophilia. And although such a thing is beyond revolting, it is used to tell the tale of a very lost and very lonely man. Humbert is a man to be pitied, pitied because he actually exists.

A child in a man’s body, unable to move on from what was to him the most perfect memory; Humbert’s obsession with youth takes on the form of paedophilia: he becomes attracted to this idea of purity and develops strong sexual feelings towards it. Humbert knows he is a monster, but he just doesn’t care. To him his feelings are perfectly justifiable, natural even. He has an incredibly distorted view of the world; thus, we see the world through the eyes of an extremely unreliable narrator. Perhaps unreliable is the wrong word. He reports what he sees with utmost honesty; however, his perceptions of these experiences are, well, just wrong.

As a character study, he is a very worthy subject. In the wake of Freudian psychoanalysis, Nabokov’s novel is aware of the rising field of psychology. Humbert is a walking contradiction. He is at times unbelievably arrogant, and at other times he is timid and weak; he is passive yet manipulative; he derides nothing from life other than a person sense of sexual gratification: it’s all he lives for. He has an exceedingly narrow range of interests; he scrutinises everything and remembers the most minor of details. He is charming, but at other times completely socially awkward. I think it wouldn’t be too far a thing to suggest that there are elements of Autism within his personality. He is obsessive about things, about his work and “his” Lolita. Ironically, at one point, he expresses succinct knowledge of Freud and at another he demonstrates complete ignorance towards Freud’s psychosexual stages of development. So who exactly is this Humbert?

Humbert is lost; he is lost in life, and he is lost within himself: he is hopeless, looking for any sense of light in his life. Unfortunately, this projection of desperation takes on the form of a child. He falls in love with Lolita, and what she represents to him. But of course it’s not real love; Lolita is just a sexual object to him not a person. So what follows is a story of a man who has convinced himself that his actions are perfectly justified. When he takes a twelve year old child in his arms; it is perfectly fine to his mind because she comes willing. Never mind the fact that he has crafted a situation so that she responds to his advances. She is vulnerable and completely alone in the world; she has no one to turn to in her moment of grief, and the snake is ready to lunge.

Nabokov describes some truly disturbing scenes, though he does so with eloquence bordering on the genius. Sounds odd, considering what I have just described. The content of the book is vile, Humbert is vile, but in a fictionalised world we have to look beyond that. The world is seen through the eyes of Humbert, so everything we see is what he sees and what he experiences. Nabokov uses free-indirect style to narrate some harrowing scenes, the content is vile but the language is beautiful. Again, this is what Humbert experiences. As troubling as this book may be, I argue that this has very strong place in the literary world. Nabokov explores the mind of a sexual predator and I think as readers we can learn a great deal in the process. We can see how the psychological make up of such an individual is formed and we can see what they think and they feel. To understand such a man is the first step towards stopping him and recognising this behaviour in other men.

As a reviewer, I find it of vital importance to read the reviews of others. There’s a quote on the back of my book from one such review; it says, and I quote “There’s no funnier monster in modern literature than poor, doomed Humbert Humbert.” I cannot quite describe how angry that quote makes me. There is nothing funny about Lolita.This book is terribly serious in content, and Humbert is not a man to be laughed at. What we have is a deeply disturbed individual, one confused and drifting through life, cold and utterly broken inside, and he is about to ruin the life of a young girl.

I don’t laugh at this book, I weep at its brilliance.


You can connect with me on social media via My Linktree.
Profile Image for emma.
1,867 reviews54.4k followers
August 9, 2023
when i first read this book, i hated every second of it.

while i pride myself on being a reader who can distinguish between narrator and author (a media literacy skill that, much like common sense, the concept of a secret, and outhouses, seems to be going extinct with modernity), i could not bear this read.

when i first read it, i thought that was a bad thing. i dismissed this book as unnecessary and deplorable. i said it had no real goal other than a “look what I can do” school playground-esque literary showoffiness because i needed to read this over weeks, and review it over months, because i found it so very hard to think about.

now it seems obvious to me that therein lies its value.

many people will tell you to read lolita because its prose is stunning, and truly it is. but the real magic of it is in how very much you will find yourself in the mind of evil — and you will not find it charming. you aren't supposed to. you will suffer and struggle to propel yourself through this read.

and that is an immense feat. to write a book that transports like that.

on top of being one of the most beautifully written books i’ve ever read, if not one of the most beautifully written books in existence, this vanquished me. i can read gore, violence, smut without blinking an eye. i steer clear of horror of all genres because it's never scary, and it's always boring. but this book rattled me. and that made me angry and dismissive.

but the truth is that if this book were a fantasy, full of magic and mystery, set somewhere whimsical and lovely, and managed to root me in it like this book did, i would give it five stars. it'd be my favorite forever.

the fact that this book did the same, but did it with wickedness, with the hair-standing-on-end awareness that there is true horror in this world, is not a detraction from it.

it's incredible.

bottom line: sorry about what i said before.


i hated everything about reading this other than the prose, which was without exception the most beautiful i've ever encountered.

not sure how to go about rating or reviewing that.

but review to come, i suppose

currently-reading update

me attempting to read this book, take 2
Profile Image for Lyn.
1,882 reviews16.6k followers
August 24, 2016
I once represented a man who had been accused of statutory rape and sexual exploitation of a minor. I did it because it is my job and I fundamentally believe that everyone, no matter how heinous the crime alleged, deserves a fair trial.

That said, it was the single most unpleasant experience of my legal career and high in the running for most unpleasant all time.

In popular culture we are inundated with scenes of crime and violence, we live in a morally relative landscape where “to each his own” is taken to Bohemian extremes.

But sexual attention towards children, in any context, is universally reviled and vilified.

Lo. Lee. Ta.

Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel is masterful prose. Like Joseph Conrad before him, it is understatement to say that his virtuosity in English (not his first language) literature is impressive.

Yes, it is about a pervert, a sex offender, a child rapist. A brute. A monster.

Humbert Humbert names himself such. Whether sympathetic chronicler or unreliable narrator I will leave for each reader’s interpretation, but either way Nabokov has demonstrated his consummate skill with a character as enigmatic and iconoclastically established in modern literature as to be a shadowy lurker in the black alleys of our most maligned society.

Nabokov’s narration, told from the prison diary of HH, is erudite, witty and humorous. The author’s stylish ability is incomparable. In spite of the subject matter I had to laugh many times at the way he crafted his narrative, especially his droll word play and numerous double entendres.

This is presented as a first person letter, recommended by his lawyer, of his unfortunate attraction to “nymphets” (a girl child between the ages of 9 and 14) and to his particular seduction of his erstwhile step-daughter Dolores, whom he affectionately calls Lolita. Several times throughout the chronicle the tragi-comic protagonist entreats the attention of the “gentlemen of the jury”. He describes his yearlong affair with the child in words that are at times repentant and remorseful, and at other times attempting a justification and explanation of his acts.

Humburt, a European émigré to our shores, also fills his account, “joyriding” as they do across America, with an ongoing ironic observation of our culture. Nabakov could use this all as an extended allegory for old world attraction with our new world mores and customs. Lolita, then, would be the central focus of this fascination and a living metaphor for America, at once childlike and alluring.

Brilliantly written with a shamefully outrageous subject, once the reader recovers from the shock quotient (if the reader recovers) this is a wealth of literary genius and style.

Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,215 reviews9,893 followers
December 4, 2013
Other formerly shocking novels of previous centuries have lost their power, batteries quite flat (Madame Bovary, Ulysses, Lady Chatterly’s Lover) – we love them still but we wince no more, we may be quite amused at the idea that this word or that idea was not allowed in polite society – we may, indeed, be vastly amused at the very idea of polite society because society is just not very polite at all these days. But uniquely, Lolita, this great and appalling novel, only gets more shocking and more dangerous as the years go by, as more and more paedophilia is uncovered every other day in the news, in nurseries, in hard drives, in the highest of churches, as the paranoia spreads. I found myself quite nervous about even being seen reading Lolita at work. And very glad the cover was an awful grey with a hideous attempt at a butterfly in the corner, and not the suggestive white-socks-and-short-school-skirt of some editions.

Lolita is the blackest of all comedies, the blackness of a deep mine of human corruption with all the canaries long dead in the poisonous atmosphere. It’s a comedy about depravity. You want to know what depravity is? These days, that’s a quaint word. Reminds me of that risible phrase of the censors “a tendency to deprave and corrupt”. Here is depravity :

This was an orphan. This was a lone child, an absolute waif, with whom a heavy limbed, foul-smelling adult had had strenuous intercourse three times that very morning. (p140)

When, during our longer stops, I would relax after a particularly violent morning in bed, and out of the goodness of my lulled heart allow her – indulgent Hum! – to visit the rose garden or the children’s library… (p160)

Thrusting my fatherly fingers deep into Lo’s hair from behind, and then gently clasping them around the nape of her neck, I would lead my reluctant pet to our small home for a quick connection before dinner. (p164)

… and her sobs in the night – every night, every night – the moment I feigned sleep. (p176)

Depraved is when you don’t wish to acknowledge the pain you’re doling out as you feast and guzzle, or, yes, you do acknowledge it, with a sad shrug, oh la, alas, it is sad but that is how it is, or perhaps it’s when these tears, this misery, makes your pleasure even more piquant and delectable. I think Humbert bounces gently between the three. Yes, poor little Lo. As he says himself:

I entered a plane of being where nothing mattered, save the infusion of joy brewed within my body.

As you read Lolita the uncomfortable feeling steals over you that whilst VN had no direct knowledge of his grisly subject, nevertheless he’d thought about it a bit too much. In HH’s mind, and we are never out of it, we go fumbling, frolicking, frottaging and frothing in paroxysms of nympholepsy, we hang over his shoulder the whole time, we’re with him during every bated glimpse of little Lo’s long languid limbs, drooling, always drooling, and of course, we're with him from first spurt to last. VN didn’t have to write about a highly intelligent, highly cultured paedophile. That was his big fat choice.


I stumbled upon this quote from the wonderfully named Leland de la Durantaye in the Village Voice:

To search for the experiences leading to a work of art is as natural as not finding them.

I’m not altogether sure what VN was up to. Yes, Lolita is a case study, but VN hated Freud and psychoanalysis. Yes, it’s a criminal confession, but VN was a writer obsessed with self-reflecting introverted solipsistic linguistic game-playing, those are the novels he wrote, from Ada to Pnin to Pale Fire – parodies all, and he really wasn’t much interested in realism. If you were picking your team of realistic novelists, Vlad the Impaler wouldn’t even be a substitute. So it’s ironic that his one and only famous – I mean, really famous – novel is about a giant social problem which is always as fresh as today’s headlines, and never gets old, just like those nymphets.


Perhaps Lolita is VN’s meditation on love. Because Humbert loves little Lo. He tells us so in such gorgeous sentences that you would have to have a heart of stone not to believe him. That must be it.

This nymphet thing, it’s an idea, an erotic ideal, not a person. VN’s Humbert is constantly in search of a human being who most closely embodies this ideal. He’s actually not interested in little girls at all, finds them unpleasant – except insofar at they personify the nymphet idea. At that point he turns into a sick junkie whose connection has just arrived. But the girl will only be desirable for two, maybe three years. As soon as the girl in question grows up & passes into adolescence the poor paedophile turns away in disgust. And of course there can be very little connection between the two interested parties except on the level of carnality because one of the parties is a middle-aged male and the other is a 12 year old child. Humbert’s obsession condemns both of them to profound loneliness, as well as morbid co-dependency – he can’t allow either of them to have any normal friendships. This whole hideous situation is laid out for our bug-eyed perusal – the fulfillment which can only ever be coercive, the love which can only ever be rape, the relationship which can only ever be damaging.

Humbert loves his little Lo. We know because he tells us so.

Don’t think I can go on. Heart, head – everything. Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, . Repeat till the page is full, printer. (p109)

And I looked and looked at her and knew as clearly as I know I am to die, that I loved her more than anything I had ever seen or imagined on earth, or hoped for anywhere else. (p277)

Even if those eyes of hers would fade to myopic fish, and her nipples swell and crack, and her lovely young velvety delta be tainted and torn – even then would I go mad with tenderness at the mere sight of your dear wan face, at the mere sound of your raccous young voice, my Lolita. (p278)

In 1963 Phil Spector put out a single by The Crystals written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King called “He Hit Me (And it Felt Like a Kiss)” – it took them a week or so to realize that their audience found the song repulsive and it was withdrawn. But that idea of what love is can be found in every other courtroom. I found her in bed with another man so naturally I shot her. I loved her so much but she told me she was leaving so of course I killed her. I couldn’t stand the thought of her leaving. She died because I loved her. I loved her to death. Day in, day out, this is the love in many men’s minds. This is the cold polar opposite of If You Love Somebody Set Them Free. That happy sentiment is thought to be Not Love At All by many people. Possession is nine tenths of the conjugal domain. HH owns Lolita, she can’t go anywhere. He glories in how much his she is.

Oh Lolita, you are my girl, as Vee was Poe’s and Bea Dante’s, and what little girl would not like to whirl in a circular skirt and scanties? (p107)

Maybe that nasty Nabokov is suggesting that the nature of love is that love does not care about the loved one, not really, it says it does, but when you look at the thing closely, it doesn’t. The weddings, the honeymoons, the diamonds, the sweet words, all of it, maybe that’s just for your benefit, all bribes. Could even Vlad be that cynical? Maybe.


I think this theory is reductive, demeaning and wrong. But he was very camp.


Childhood for girls didn’t used to be as protected as it is now in the west, and it still isn’t, of course, for many girls in many countries in 2011. Humbert’s crimes against Lolita would not be seen as crimes at all in many places. There are plenty of tour guides who will assist you if you want to be Humbert for a week or two in Vietman or Cambodia. There’s thousands of Lolitas out there if that’s your cup of tea. In the West the Victorians invented childhood* and their earnest reformers tried and eventually succeeded in sweeping away the crowds of child prostitutes which thronged Hyde Park and the other thoroughfares of London as they did in the time of Samuel Johnson. Liberal Western culture has re-engineered the whole notion of childhood but it’s perpetually under attack

From the Lancashire telegraph

‘Don’t take away their childhood’ say East Lancashire mums
2:40pm Wednesday 22nd June 2011

PUSH up bras for nine-year-olds, ‘WAG’ slogan T-shirts for pre-schoolers and high heeled shoes for toddlers. These might sound like ludicrous concepts, but over the past year a string of high street retailers have been criticised for selling such items.


Lolita is a strange book. After grinding away in the literary undergrowth for decades, catching butterflies and dodging Nazis, VN spent 5 years writing it and a couple more years finding a publisher, and then WHAM! Number one best-seller. Fame, notoriety, and heaps of crisp dollar notes came raining down. He quit his job and left America, lived a swish life in Switzerland. He was in his late 50s and he’s written a novel everyone wanted to read and – I am going to guess – few people actually finished. Lolita displaced Anatomy of a Murder as the No 1 bestseller, and was replaced in turn by Doctor Zhivago. Those first eager purchasers, they were looking for a shocking frolick, and they got a second James Joyce, brilliant, wild, too clever by half, terrifying, witty, revolting and, of course, ferociously cultivated. Was that what they wanted?

You read novels and you think well, this was good, but that plot there or this conclusion or that style could have been improved, you know, so, only 3.5 stars. But Lolita is a novel which writes its own rules, a mesmerising mashup of horror, beauty, wildness, syntactical dexterity and adventures in extreme obsession and extreme vocabulary, a novel that I am amazed exists at all.

Profile Image for Michael Finocchiaro.
Author 3 books5,635 followers
April 4, 2022
Astoundingly beautiful prose, a self-aware psychotic narrator who is both unapologetic and yet disgusted by his crime...so many themes in this book, so much symmetry (342).

Humbert Humbert knows he is both brilliant and insanely obsessed with pre-pubescent girls. He tortures his psychiatrists "cunningly leading them on; never letting them see [he] knew every trick of the trade" (P. 34). He becomes a lodger with Ms. Haze, a widow, and sees his nymphet in her yard, "a blue sea-wave swelled under [his] heart and, from a mat in a pool of sun, half-naked, kneeling, turning about on her knees, there was my Riviera love peering at me over dark glasses." (P. 39) He obsesses over Lo listening - in his fateful diary - to details as minor as "the staccato sound [a toilet paper roll makes] as it turns." (P. 49). The text is both reprehensible and hilarious, the writing always being of a sublimely dreamy quality. Was Roth inspired by this scene when he wrote of Nathan Zuckerman hunting around the room of Amy Bellette in The Ghost Writer?

Fate throws HH and his Lo together (no spoilers, I promise). HH holds a reformatory existence over her as a ransom for the naughtiness he extracts. There are a few epic road trips:

"As we pushed westward, patches of what the garbage-man called 'sage brush' appeared, and then the mysterious outlines of table-like hills, and then red bluffs ink-blotted with junipers, and then a mountain range, dun grading into blue, and blue into dream, and the desert would meet us with a steady gale, dust, gray thorn bushes, and hideous bits of tissue paper mimicking pale flowers among the prickles of wind-tortured withered stalks all along the highway; in the middle of which there sometimes stood simple cows, immobilized in a position (tail left, eyelashes right) cutting across all human rules of traffic." (P. 153)

How did Nabokov pull this off? He arrived in the US in 1941 and conceived Lolita during a drive out in the Western US in 1955 (otherwise how could you explain the precision and realism of the above sentence?) This being his third work in a non-native English language (translated by him back to Russian in 1965 - parenthetically are there any Russophones reading this post that have read both the English and Russian Lolitas? What is the Russian one like?)

I love this description of an otherwise nondescript gas station in the middle of nowhere:

"I stared in such dull discomfort of mind at those stationary trivialities that looked almost surprised, like staring rustics, to find themselves in the stranded traveler's field of vision: that green garbage can, those very black, very whitewalled tires for sale, those bright cans of motor oil, that red icebox with assorted drinks, the four, five, seven discarded bottles within the incomplete crossword puzzle of their wooden cells, that bug patiently walking up the inside of the window of the office." (P. 211)

I could only dream of aspiring to write descriptions like that, and English is my native language. Pure genius.

There is a lot of tennis in the novel, particularly towards the end leading me to wonder if DFW was a huge Nabakov fan (being similarly obsessed with the sport.) Here is a description of chess that certainly must have given DFW some inspiration:
"I saw the board as a square as of limpid water with rare shells and stratagems rosily visible upon the smooth tessellated bottom, which to my confused adversary was all ooze and squid-cloud." (P. 233)

There is a wonderful little poem near the end:
"The moral sense in mortals is the duty
We have to pay on mortal sense of beauty."
(P. 283)

The central problem in the novel is of course HH's seduction of Lo and her sometimes complicity (rebelling against the mother who never loved her). But both he and Lo are aware that he is a sham:
"It had become gradually clear to my conventional Lolita during our singular and bestial cohabitation that even the most miserable of family lives was better than the parody of incest, which, in the long run, was the best I could offer the waif." (P. 287)

Nabokov insisted that there is no moral to this novel - it is neither a condoning nor condemnation of incest. That kind of judgmental attitude would clearly have ruined the text. That being said, we clearly see that HH is a hopeless pervert and a predator, a father's worst nightmare- and we see how Lo ends up - lost, but defiant to the end.

The topic is, of course, extremely taboo, but Nabakov’s gift to get inside HH’s head and show us how dark and twisted his rationale is, as well as the clear damage it causes to Lolita serves to condemn the aspect of using one’s intellectual and physical power as well as a way of subjugating a young victim to predation. That this particular victim revealed her inner strength in both the struggle and the capitulation is what makes it great literature. If we contrast this with Boris Vian’s I Spit on Your Graves from 1946, where raping little girls is just a way of blowing off steam and rebelling against the system, we see that Lolita and HH are self-conscious characters whereas the first-person protagonist in Vian is just a licentious, violent psychopath with zero guilt or restraint and with no conscience other than some racist, pseudo-socialist ideals.

Lolita is a novel of extraordinary power and beauty in which Nabokov challenges us to read beyond our disgust and fear and live uncomfortably in HH's mind for 300 beautifully written pages. Hard to forget and impossible to ignore, it is Nabokov's greatest contribution to literature imo.
Profile Image for David.
865 reviews1,338 followers
January 16, 2009
(Legend of a Licentious Logophile)

1. Libidinous linguist lusts after landlady's lass.
2. Lecherous lodger weds lovelorn landlady.
3. Landlady loses life.
4. Lascivious lewd looks after little Lolita.
5. Lubricious Lolita loves licking lollipops lambitively.
6. Licentious lecturer loves Lolita louchely.
7. Lechery lands lusty lamister in legal limbo.
8. Lachrymose libertine languishes in lockup.
Profile Image for هدى يحيى.
Author 9 books16.2k followers
August 31, 2021
يوميات متحرش بالأطفال


س: عرف العمل الأدبي الكلاسيكي

ج هو عمل غالبًا لا تستطيع أن تفهم سبب شهرته وخلوده
مهما حاولت التمحيص والتفحيص
فلا شيء سوى لسان طويل طويل يخرج لك
مستهزءا باليوم اللي - اتهبلت فيه ف عقلك وقلت ياروايات

وقد يصاحب ذلك محاولات متكررة في شد شعرك مستميتا في المحاولة
لما هذا السفه قد يعتبر عملَا أدبيا خالدا؟؟


الرواية تبرز إمكانات ناباكوف الضعيفة والمثيرة للشفقة
-مع مراعاة الزمن الذي كتبت فيه الرواية
فذلك السرد وتلك اللغة لا يتركان مجالا للشك

وكأن هذا الرجل قد أقسم بأغلظ الأيمان على فقع مرارة قارئه

فبعيدا عن الاشمئزاز الممزوج ربما ببعض الحزن
على حال الفتاة المسكينة التي تغتصب يوميا

تجد أن الرواية سخيفة لا تثير في نفسك اي مشاعر أو متعة أدبية
إنها صفحات من الملل الصرف

بطل لا تتعاطف معه
فتاة لا تحاول الرواية إضافة بعدا أو عمقا لشخصيتها
حدوتة لا تجذبك بحال


لوليتا القتاة ذات الإثني عشر ربيعا
"هي واحدة من "الحوريات المسعورات
كما يسميهن البطل الهمام
وهو رجل رائع يقدر الطفلات البريئات كثيرة
ولا يشبع من رغبته النهمة فيهن
وذلك قدر ما هو حنون ونبيل

أحيانا يجرب النساء الناضجات-ما هي حاجة ببلاش كده
وذلك لسد الحاجة حين تفيض الشهوة عن الحد-امّال هيعمل ايه يعني

وطوال أحداث الرواية الميمونة
يحدثك البطل ال(حونين بالقوي) عن رغباته الشريفة تلك
عن كيف بدأت معه وكيف حاربها (ياعييييني ياخوييا) حتى غلبته
ثم يستمر غالبا في وصف شبقه الذي لا ينتهي لجسد الفتاة المسكين

أما عن الأحداث القليلة المتبقية
والتي ظن الكاتب أنه بها يعمق روايته ويكسبها قيمة أدبية
فهي حقا تبهرك
-أنا كهدى انبهرت

فالبطل يواجه -حبيب قلب أمه حكما بالإعدام
ولوليتا تتزوج من آخر بعدما كبرت
والحقيقة ممكن تكمل الباقي من أي مسلسل عربي يعجبك

أما عن طريقة السرد
فشعرت دوما في السطور التي كان يحاول أن يتفلسف فيها
بحذلقة و تكلف وسخف غير مبرر على الإطلاق


باختصار لم أحبها
لم تجذبني
أندم على الوقت الذي ضيعته منتظرة أن تبدأ القصة بالتحسن

الدنيا فيها كتب عظيمة وعبقرية كتير
لما نخلصهم الأول

Profile Image for Chris.
91 reviews443 followers
March 15, 2017
*Ranked as one of the Top 100 Fiction of the 20th Century*
I’m not quite sure how to put this in words. Hell, I’m not sure what I intend to say, so this is going to be ugly. If you want to sit in on this exercise be my guest, you’ve probably got more important things to do, such as organizing your cassette tapes and LPs before shoving them in a box destined for the attic, believe me, your time will be better spent, especially when you take that stroll down memory lane and consider how killer it would be to rock out to Depeche Mode and A-Ha all afternoon (it’s possible you’re one of those badasses with some Dead Kennedys on cassette, more power to you, feel free to tear off your shirt and bathe with a 40oz of Big Bear). You might want to clean your bong while you’re at it; you never know how immersed you’ll get in the hazy recollections of your exploits during the New Wave or burgeoning Hardcore era and might prefer a soundtrack to complement your deranged thoughts.

As for Lolita, maybe this tangential bullshit will help get my point across… I’ve recently taken a keen interest in watching “Deadliest Catch”, but as soon as the show concludes I wonder “What have I walked away with, after investing 50 minutes and 4 rum & cokes to the accompaniment of these awe-inspiring images of man battling the elements to strike bepincered gold?” Not much, appears to be the answer; it’s just a bunch of crabs, crabs, crabs, and master-baiting, the simple ingredients of all my friendships and relationships. Sure, it’s awesome to watch sea-faring maniacs risk life and limb to haul in the nasty creatures that pay their bills, but there’s nothing else to it, just dudes getting stoked over a huge haul of crabs, or lamenting some element of the life they’ve chosen. Then you get to thinking how these dudes’ wives manage without them at sea for 20+ days at a time; obviously they are in the crab-catching business as well. And the real kick in the ass is that I don’t even eat crab, hell, I’ve never even tried a dish that incorporates any crab. When I consider the ridiculousness of it all, it seems pretty disheartening. This sort of pointless introspection is probably how Des Esseintes got his start, so I’ll leave it at that before it becomes habit-forming.

I can’t say that my opinion of Lolita is much different. It’s just Humbert Humbert endlessly rhapsodizing about nymphettes, most substantially, his nymphette, Lolita. And that’s it; I’ve probably never read anything so one-dimensional in my life. I’m sure the upper echelons of literary critics found myriad reasons beyond my primitive sensibilities for including this in the Top 100 works of 20th century fiction, I just don’t happen to see it. One of these qualifiers might be this absurd statement on the back cover, ‘Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America’. Now, when we consider the social climate at the time of publication, with book-banning and obscenity trials recently being all the rage, and you know that in order to somehow foist upon the public a tale concerning a grown man’s obsession and fornication with a 12 year old girl the defenders of this thinly-veiled smut have to somehow show that there is something above and beyond mere prurient interest hidden between the covers of the book, so statements like the one above are thrown out there to mind-f#ck all. I don’t even know what the hell that statement on the cover is supposed to mean, but ‘postwar America’ were powerful buzzwords at the time, and truly, what else could you possibly use as a thematic defense for this book, seeing as the book has nothing to offer except the ridiculous tale of a weathered old pervert ogling young girls on the hopscotch courts, finding one that epitomizes his unacceptable desires, and eventually having his way with her before attempting to completely control her young body and mind during a trek that can only be considered kidnapping on the grandest scale. Let’s not forget that when his precious nymphette is purloined by an unknown fiend, he goes off to ambush the guy and shoot his ass; this is not the behavior of the ‘hypercivilized’; my own rather sloppy upbringing declares that anyone with a shred of civility offers his adversary a duel rather than attack him unawares, Humbert is a lowly coward of the worst disposition. The ‘hypercivilized’ don’t go around bagging 85 pound kids sporting skinned knees from spills at the roller-rink, real men fish for those awesome and voluptuous Amazonians, the women who proudly stand 5’10” or more and have generous curves that modern fabrics fruitlessly struggle to contain from spilling forth in all their fully-developed glory. Our man Humbert has no such redeeming qualities; he’s a scoundrel of the lowest and basest rank. Let’s not forget that he weeps, and when I conjure a mental image of the elusive ‘hypercivilized European’, weeping like a bitch and throwing a tantrum doesn’t enter the picture.

While the frauds who compiled the Top 100 Fiction list and I might diverge in our estimations of Lolita, I will agree with our man John Updike when he states “Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written, that is, ecstatically.” There is no denying that the book is phenomenally written, but the repetition of nymphette-this and nymphette-that simply overwhelmed me; I was left with an indelible image of Nabokov sitting there alternately referencing his thesaurus and a collection of kiddie porn for inspiration while hammering this out. I’d have enjoyed this book a thousand times more had it been about turtles, or walnuts, or my mother's first communion, hell, anything else. Nymphettes suck: there is a reason I don’t go trolling for trim at the nearest bus station, who the hell wants to put up with the behavior of a pubescent trollop?

There isn’t a whole hell of a lot that I know, but I do know this; if my choices were either read Lolita again or spend a day crabbing in the arctic, I’d better be prepared to get some frostbite on my beanbag.
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,564 reviews47 followers
July 28, 2021
Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita is a 1955 novel written by Russian American novelist Vladimir Nabokov.

The novel is notable for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, a middle-aged literature professor under the pseudonym Humbert Humbert is obsessed with a 12-year-old girl, Dolores Haze, with whom he becomes sexually involved after he becomes her stepfather.

Lolita is his private nickname for Dolores.

The novel was originally written in English and first published in Paris in 1955 by Olympia Press.

Later it was translated into Russian by Nabokov himself and published in New York City in 1967 by Phaedra Publishers.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1994میلادی

این کتاب برای نخستین بار در سال 1955میلادی، در «پاریس» توسط «المپیاپرس» به چاپ رسید؛ «استنلی کوبریک، در سال 1962میلادی»، و «آدریان لین در سال 1992میلادی»، دو فیلم، با اقتباس از همین رمان ساختند؛ «لولیتا» رمانی است، در مورد عشق یک پروفسور میان‌سال، به یک دختربچه ی دوازده سیزده ساله به نام «لولیتا»؛ پروفسور از قضا ناپدری «لولیتا» نیز هست؛ پروفسور در پی فاش شدن عشق نامشروعش به دختر همسر خویش، و مرگ زنش، سفری نامشخص را در کنار «لولیتا» آغاز می‌کنند، غافل از آنکه، دخترک توسط یک فرد ثروتمند منحرف، اغف��ل و ناگاه پروفسور را ترک می‌کند؛

کتاب در «پاریس»، موهن تشخیص داده شد، و فروش آن قدغن شد؛ کمی بعد در «انگلیس»، سپس در «آرژانتین»، «نیوزیلند» و «آفریقای جنوبی» نیز، اجازه فروش پیدا نکرد؛ به دختران جوانی که از سنین پایین، درگیر مسائل جنسی ‌شوند، به اصطلاح «لولیتا» می‌گویند؛ کتاب «ناباکوف» را، در سال 2014میلادی، خانم «اکرم پدرام‌ نیا» نیز، به زبان فارسی برگردانده، و نشر «زریاب» آن را در «افغانستان»، چاپ و منتشر کرده است

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 22/05/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 05/05/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Luca Ambrosino.
83 reviews13.7k followers
February 5, 2020

After dusty years in my bookshelf, finally I decided to read "Lolita". I am blown away by this Vladimir Nabokov's work, ironic and dramatic at the same time. I am not shocked, nor I have found those disastrous tones of an announced tragedy that I was expecting from this book. Indeed Nabokov tells us that this work:

"... brings along no moral. For me a work of fiction exists only if it gives me what I frankly shall call aesthetic pleasure."
The main character, Humbert, describes in a precise and often sarcastic way his syndrome, i.e. the uncontrollable attraction towards those he defines "nymphets" based on a rigorous combination of age, attitude and style of dress, a lethal mix that can catapult him into an abyss of irrationality. Some "normal" dalliances had in adolescence or adulthood are worthless. Something is wrong in our antihero, which plans convenience marriages or improbable assassinations just to satisfy his ecstatic passion. Playing the dual role of fugitive and pursuer in a long road trip, the wretched fate of a grotesque man takes place. A man that until the end is unable to control his insane and delirious love.

But still love.

Vote: 8


Dopo anni di polverosa presenza nel mio scaffale, decido con moderato entusiasmo di leggere questo libro. Ironico e drammatico al contempo, quest'opera di Vladimir Nabokov mi ha spiazzato. Non mi sono scandalizzato, né ho ritrovato quei toni funesti da tragedia annunciata che il titolo "Lolita" sempre suscitava in me. D'altronde ci dice Nabokov che la sua opera:

"... non si porta dietro nessuna morale. Per me un'opera di narrativa esiste solo se mi procura quella che chiamerò francamente voluttà estetica".
Il protagonista, Humbert, descrive in maniera precisa e spesso sarcastica la sua sindrome, l'attrazione irrefrenabile verso coloro che definisce "ninfette" sulla base di una rigorosa combinazione di età, atteggiamento e modo di vestire, un mix letale in grado di scaraventarlo in un abisso di irrazionalità. A nulla valgono esperienze relazionali "normali" avute in adolescenza o in età adulta. Qualcosa non quadra nel bell'Humbert, che progetta matrimoni di convenienza o improbabili assassinii pur di soddisfare la sua estatica passione. Rivestendo il duplice ruolo di fuggiasco ed inseguitore in un lungo viaggio on the road, si compie il gramo destino di un uomo grottesco, incapace fino all'ultimo di dominare il suo amore insano e delirante.

Ma pur sempre amore.

Voto: 8

Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,465 reviews3,618 followers
May 29, 2022
Wishful… Sinful…
“He’d wag his horn rimmed head, smile secretively, wink, and proclaim his astonishment: ‘Still on Lolita?’ Then he’d issue a past master’s chuckle by way of letting me know that he and I were joined in some scatological conspiracy. It never occurred to him that I might be reading the book for the fourth or fifth time, and as the days passed I know he came to regard me as either depraved or the most moronic reader in Christendom. ‘Still on Lolita!’ became a recurring din, like a daily summons to waken.” Frederick Exley A Fan's Notes
Pharisees don’t read books – they just form opinions about them… And their opinion is their castle.
The passion I had developed for that nymphet, for the first nymphet in my life that could be reached at last by my awkward, aching, timid claws, would have certainly landed me again in a sanatorium, had not the devil realized that I was to be granted some relief if he wanted to have me as a plaything for some time longer.

When one is tortured with desire one has no place to hide… And Vladimir Nabokov’s profound immersion into an analysis of such desire that sweeps all the moral bans on its way was unprecedented. And he managed to raise his revolutionary novel high above the pornography – to the level of true immortal art.
We loved each other with a premature love, marked by a fierceness that so often destroys adult lives.

To some love is an obsession for life and to some it is nothing but a trinket for a day.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,095 reviews17.7k followers
August 20, 2019
You see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go.

This is a book I kind of hated and kind of loved, and when I first started writing this review, I did not know how to evaluate it. So I went through the reviews, and I realized what I wanted to say: it honestly amazes me that anyone is able to read this as a romance.

It's quite clear that this is not meant to be a romance. even ignoring that it's quite literally about a twelve year old and a thirty-seven year old, it is made SO clear that he knows he's taking advantage of her situation and simply doesn't care?

And it is for this reason I enjoyed Lolita. I think the reason I enjoyed - or maybe appreciated - this so much was I never thought the narrative was romanticizing what was going on; it was more like an acknowledgement, a book of horror meant to draw its eye.

It’s a masterful use of unreliable narrator, and here - unlike in a lot of other books that recieve praise for unreliable narrator - Nabokov makes his use of this device textual. Lola’s behavior is, at its peak, the behavior of a rebellious twelve-year-old, not the behavior of the seductive, uncaring Lolita Humbert wants us to believe her to be.

He has this strange pride in himself and this strange analysis of his idea, and of his pathologic ability to justify his illness; he’s replaying this episode of his childhood, in which he had consexual sex with a girl his age, as if it justifies his later preying upon Lola. He claims that she seduced him when she has not, when her behavior, though inappropriate, is essentially the behavior of an unaware twelve-year-old wanting someone in the world. And in places, his deeper mind peaks through: in the quote at the top of this page, elsewhere, when he criticizes Caroline for her hatred for her daughter, her jealousy of her daughter, her resentment. When he acknowledges Lola is only going along with his actions, to prove how grown-up she is, to prove that she wasn't lying about her sexual experience.

Perhaps the only thing I sort of didn't was the ending, which I found kind of... ridiculous. I would love to read a retelling of this in which in the end, Lola kills Humbert.

TW: pedophilia and sexual assault.
dangerous ideas: book 4
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Profile Image for ZOË.
202 reviews178 followers
Want to read
July 7, 2022
WHY DID VANITY FAIR SAY “The only convincing love story of our century.” ON THE BACK OF THIS EDITION… DID THEY READ THE BOOK????
Profile Image for Lisa of Troy.
432 reviews4,231 followers
September 23, 2023
“I didn’t say I liked it. I said it fascinated me. There is a great difference.” - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Nabokov is brilliant because if you had to write a character, one of the least sympathetic characters would be a pedophile. However, this is exactly who our main character is.

Lolita centers on Humbert Humbert, a man obsessed with a 12-year old girl. He unapologetically describes his obsession, how he willingly sacrifices his entire life for her.

Lolita is fleeting. Humbert understands that the girl will age and outgrow his obsession. What is disturbing is that almost all romantic relationships follow a similar timeline.

When we first fall in love, our brains are awash in high levels of dopamine, high levels of cortisol, and low levels of serotonin. Serotonin is associated with obsessive-compulsive behaviors. Have you ever tried not to think of someone but are drawn helplessly back? Thanks, Serotonin!

After one or two years, the cortisol and serotonin return to normal levels. Now, will your “love” really last, when you realize that the person sitting across from you actually has faults and imperfections?

On this reread of Lolita, I am now plagued by the question: Is Humbert telling the truth? Do I believe that the events unfolded as he described them? If the eyes are the window to the soul, why do we first meet Lolita with sunglasses on?

There is an interesting Yale lecture on Lolita found on YouTube.

The lecturer asked, “Would you like to have dinner with Humbert Humbert (understanding that the entire audience is outside the age of a nymphet)?”

How much do you believe Vladimir Nabokov personally is reflected in the novel?

Do you think Mr. Humbert is sorry for his obsession?

Does Mr. Humbert trivialize what he is doing in the novel?

Lolita is a retelling of sorts. At the beginning of the book, Humbert describes a relationship with Annabel Lee. This is actually a poem by Edgar Allan Poe.

If you enjoyed Lolita, you may also want to check out My Dark Vanessa.

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Profile Image for Ilse (away until November).
475 reviews3,123 followers
August 10, 2021
I insist the world know how much I loved my Lolita, this Lolita, pale and polluted, and big with another’s child, but still gray-eyed, still sooty-lashed, still auburn and almond, still Carmencita, still mine.

From prison, the confessions of Humbert Humbert, a 40- year old man with a weakness for 'nymphets', budding sirens 'between nine and fourteen', reach us. Looking for shelter in a sleepy American town, he discovers 12-year-old Dolores Haze - Lolita. To be able to stay near her, Humbert marries mother Haze. With sardonic pleasure, Nabokov leads Humbert and Lolita to the tragic denouement, taking them from one grubby motel to another in a compulsively hooking road movie. Lolita speaks of loss, exile and unfulfilled desire. It is the story of an impossible, ill-fated love: as she matures, the butterfly Lolita inevitably pupates into a caterpillar. Because of Nabokov's virtuoso prose, Lolita is inventive, brilliant, playful literature- nevertheless in my opinion not the ideal book as a first acquaintance with Nabokov, disconcerting it is because of the subject.

Nabokov himself was acutely aware of the difficulties in presenting his Lolita visually to the world:

After thinking it over, I would rather not involve butterflies. Do you think it could be possible to find today in New York an artist who would not be influenced in his work by the general cartoonesque and primitivist style jacket illustration? Who would be capable of creating a romantic, delicately drawn, non-Freudian and non-juvenile, picture for LOLITA (a dissolving remoteness, a soft American landscape, a nostalgic highway—that sort of thing)? There is one subject which I am emphatically opposed to: any kind of representation of a little girl.

In lieu of even trying to capture impressions by an illustration, here is a fascinating article dedicated to 60 covers of the novel as published through the years in various countries. More covers can be found on Covering Lolita.

I am partial to sobriety in the matter. Which cover would you choose?


Ik eis dat de wereld weet hoeveel ik hield van mijn Lolita, déze Lolita, bleek en bezoedeld, en zwanger van andermans kind, maar nog altijd grijsogig, nog altijd roetig gewimperd, nog altijd kastanje en amandel, nog altijd Carmencita, nog altijd van mij.

In 1958 verscheen de eerste Amerikaanse versie van dit schandaalboek in de Verenigde staten.

Vanuit de gevangenis bereiken ons de bekentenissen van Humbert Humbert, een 40-jarige Europeaan met een zwak voor ‘nimfijnen’, ontluikende sirenen ‘tussen negen en veertien’. Op zoek naar onderdak in een slaperig Amerikaans stadje ontdekt hij de 12-jarige Dolores Haze – Lolita. Om in haar buurt te kunnen blijven, trouwt Humbert met moeder Haze. In een beklemmende roadmovie voert Nabokov zijn personages via Amerikaanse motels naar de tragische ontknoping. Uit Lolita spreekt verlies, ballingschap en onvervuld verlangen. Het is het verhaal van een onmogelijke, noodlottige liefde: met het volwassen worden verpopt de vlinder Lolita zich onvermijdelijk tot rups. Dankzij Nabokovs virtuoze taal is Lolita een uniek boek dat de lezer ondanks de problematische thematiek zal verslinden: het is inventieve, briljante, speelse literatuur van de bovenste plank. Ook de sardonische kijk op het kitscherige Amerika van de jaren ’50 zal menig lezer bekoren.
Profile Image for Namrirru.
267 reviews
December 4, 2013
Nabokov often writes his novels in the perspective of detestable villains. You never like them, you're never supposed to like them, and Nabokov doesn't like them either. He slaps them around and humiliates them. And in the end, they pay the price for their sins. Readers never seem to realize this. They become immersed in the psychology of the book and feel defiled by it all. Instead, they should sit back and watch the bastards suffer. The stories are written in their own view so that makes the punishment all the more sweet. The reader knows exactly what the scheisemeister is feeling - pain, pain, pain. That's one of the reasons I like Nabokov so much. The bad guys really get it. It's not just getting killed or caught at the end, you really feel their anguish. Mmm... schadenfreude."

I sort of believe the reason why most of the characters are 2 dimensional is precisely because of who is potraying them, a depraved person. A depraved person who commits terrible, unforgivable crimes against people. How could he commit those crimes if he saw them as the human beings that they are? It's easier for a crook to swindle if he dehumanizes his victims. At the end of Lolita, Lolita transfigures. She's a sensitive, care-worn woman, but only because HH realizes her as such. That's why he can murder the man who betrayed her at the end. He was a filthy mongrel that deserved to die for what he did to her. "She groped for words. I supplied them mentally ("He broke my heart. You merely broke my life")." I don't remember, but this could be the first time he "supplied [words] mentally" in a way that's true and unselfish. He finally understood her as a person and sacrificed himself to revenge her. Perhaps, HH's only redeeming quality.

In Nabokov's books where the villain is the protagonist, the only other charachter with real depth or psychology is a character who the protagonists loves. The little daughter in Laughter in the Dark, Lolita at the end the novel, Despair? The protagonist in that one is a sociopath and doesn't give his novel-mates anything, but their personalities pop out. You can feel them from the distance. Other novels I've read by him don't exactly fit this mold. In Pnin, everyone is a little characterized but still quite real, Pale Fire is written by an almost-villain and you love everyone but him, especially the wife of the poet, Invitation to a Beheading, not even the main protagonist was very real. He had the same consciousness and feelings that a "K" would have in one of Kafka's novels. But he had no believable history, it's all just a dreamscape that doesn't have half the terror as Kafka's novels have. I never finished Ada or Ador. It's Lolita x 10 in smuttiness. "Is this really necessary??" And it wasn't believable either. Just a fantasy.

Of course, not all his novels are going to follow the same formula, but they are written by the same writer, the same mind. So I'm still working on him. I really think he's one of the best writers of the 20th century. He doesn't just tell a story, he explores the psyche and human perceptions, how a certain person feels, sees, or reacts to things. If they were normal people, it wouldn't be interesting, but he picks villains or eccentrics.
Profile Image for Leonard Gaya.
Author 1 book935 followers
November 6, 2021
Probably everyone recalls that iconic movie poster with a blond teenager peering above her heart-shaped sunglasses, a red lollipop on the tip of her tongue. This picture is directly inspired by a line in Nabokov’s novel, where middle-aged Humbert-Humbert sees “his Lolita” for the very first time. What follows is a tender, sad, and seemingly chaste love story between a man in his forties and (in his own words) a nymphette.

Lolita is a novel in the form of a confession. It is unclear throughout H.H’s story precisely what crime he has been convicted with. Paedophilia with Lolita? Paedophilia with another girl? The murder of his wife (Lolita’s mother)? The murder of the mysterious Clare Quilty? The narrator leaves clues, but the suspense remains. What troubles him the most are not the charges against him but the guilt stemming from his past desire, love, lust, and jealousy towards his stepdaughter. This feeling of inner conflict tints almost everything in this book.

Lolita is also a great road-novel, a painting of the American landscape and (not without some sarcasm) of the American way of life, as depicted by a foreigner who drops a French line now and then. This aspect of Nabokov’s novel is perhaps the most delicate and personal. And Humbert’s passion for Lolita’s young body is probably a metaphor of the love of an old European for a rolling young country.

It is well known that, despite his scandalous subject (the Marquis de Sade would have produced an altogether different treatment of it), Lolita is in no way an erotic novel — nor is Sacher-Masoch’s Venus in Furs a book about kinky sex. It is the novel of an aesthete, fascinated by untouched beauty, by virgin landscapes, and by a language (English) for him to reveal in its unique musicality.
Profile Image for Lori.
371 reviews439 followers
September 21, 2021
I've lost count how many times I've read "Lolita." Ten is a guess, could be more. I love it.
(But not the covers. I want to take a sharpie to every one of them.)
I love Nabokov. He's not for everyone. No one is.

What follows is some advice and observations from me to those who are surprised and/or dismayed to find this famous infamous novel confusing (it can be) and disgusting (it's not) and Vlad a revolting, talentless hack (again, not).
I mean well.

Do not read "Lolita" if you trust unreliable narrators.
DNF if by page 50 you still think her name is Lolita.

Advice and observations:

Her name is Dolores.
It's derived from the root "dolor." There are no coincidences in Nabokov.

Nabokov's books have a lot to say. But first, foremost and always they are about language, which he manipulates in the most spectacular ways: amazing.
Reading him requires, besides a taste for him, patience and hard work.
The harder you work the more you'll get out of it and each reading promises you'll get more each time.
But at first you don't have to work so hard.

There is no shame in annotated editions. Sometimes they're practically mandatory. And always respectable.
If you are new to "Lolita" an annotated version is an excellent choice, especially if you're also new to Nabokov.
The choice of an annotated "Lolita" combines your admirable humility with your sincere desire to appreciate Nabokov's art. You may still dislike the book and the writer, but it will be informed dislike; you and he will have earned it.
Or skip "Lolita" altogether. No shame in that.

Either way is far superior to reading it, hating it and posting a review full of outrage and fury and TMI over the exploitation you suffered in your own beautiful blonde childhood, and how you didn't ask for it (neither does she) and you're insulted Lolita (not her real name) is so flirtatious (she isn't) and deliberately enticing (she isn't) and a willing party to it all (no no no) and how dare Nabokov.
And you make your points using GIFs from Clueless.

Sincerely yours,
Vivian Darkbloom
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
964 reviews6,816 followers
April 13, 2021
Human life is but a series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished masterpiece.

Opening a book is a unique conversation with another, the chance to enter and occupy the headspace of a writer, a character, a voice screaming out into the void. We see life—our own world or fantastic realities that function as elaborate metaphors for our own—through another’s eyes, walk a mile in another’s skin as Atticus Finch would say, and learn that despite the differences between individuals, we are all part of the same chorus of humanity. There has been much research into showing that reading assists the building of empathy in children, and many fine publications such as articles inThe Guardian or a similar one in Scientific American. Reading is a fresh perspective that helps us to shape our own. Lolita, a masterpiece by Vladimir Nabokov, takes us into the mind, heart and soul of a man none of us wish to become, yet Humbert Humbert’s voice is as important to the human comedy as is anyone else’s voice. Nabokov is a master of literary games and jokes, and Lolita is a work of art that often evokes knee-jerk reactions even just by mention of the title, which is precisely what Nabokov loves Nabokov has a fascination with literary games, detail and jokes, and Lolita is a gorgeously complex work that touches on taboo subjects to force our reaction and is loaded with allusions and important details and clues that invite us to play his game and learn. Vanity Fair called LolitaThe only convincing love story of our century,’ yet is it the relationship between Hubert and Dolores that is the love story (and tomes could be written debating the topic), or the love of literature? Lolita is a love story to language that soars through the stratosphere with some of the finest attention to detail in prose and plotting to seduce the reader into Humbert’s literary vision of events as justification of the horrors that transpire.

I’ve no ideas to exploit, I just like composing riddles with elegant solutions - Nabokov*

Nabokov is a supreme maestro of language. Few authors since Joyce have such acute attention to the supreme specifications of each word choice to build the maximum potential of a sentence. ‘I only have words to play with’ insists Humbert, and Nabokov uses words like playthings with the very best of them. Each noun, verb and adjective are precisely picked to elevate the tone of a scene through connotative commentary as well as attention to poetic flow, puns and general atmosphere. Even the names are exquisitely invented, from Lolita chosen for ‘the necessary note of archness and caress’ and the last name Haze being a pun on the German word hase, meaning rabbit, which is suggestive of her as prey. There is also the music of the name Humbert Humbert:
the double rumble is, I think, very nasty and suggestive. It is a hateful name for a hateful person. It is also a kingly name, and I needed a royal vibration for Humbert the Fierce and Humbert the Humble.
The double rumble also exists with couples like John and Jean or Leslie and Louise to denote a cohesion of two individuals into a cumulative force of The Couple.

Nabokov often rejects any interpretation of his work, insisting that it is just sheer creative force with nothing undermining the themes and symbols, a mere game of words being projected onto the page. While this may be a shirking of any Freudian (which he so detested) or deconstructionist interpretation, it is comforting to know that an author would pay such attention to words to build the perfect game board for the reader to immerse themselves in. America comes alive in his words and descriptions as Humbert and his charge travel the nation seeking any excuse for a sightseeing adventure. Even in the author's afterword Nabokov rejects the notion that Lolita is a commentary on America, or an examination of ‘young America debauching Old Europe or vice versa. As intention is often overshadowed by interpretation, the reader may find much to discuss in the matter, but what is most important is to see Nabokov constructing a linguistic America through the observations and experiences of Humbert as he travels. ‘It had taken me some forty years to invent Russia and Western Europe, said Nabokov in an interview discussing the creation of the novel, ‘and now I was faced with a similar task, with a lesser amount of time at my disposal.’ Nabokov set about inventing America in prose in Lolita, drawing on his travels and hotel stays with his wife on a butterfly hunting quest through the states to color the world of Humbert and create a true-to-life game board for his literary puzzles.

You can always count on a murder for a fancy prose style.

While the scintillating cacophony of words are the invention of Nabokov’s, they are also of and through the character of Humbert Humbert. The aforementioned affection towards naming is part of Humbert’s method of pseudonyms that both protect the ‘real’ in-novel people but also nudge towards Humbert’s own literary bent This is a character that quotes and alludes to an erudite array of fiction in order to seek an authorial immortality of his own by putting his deeds to paper in eloquent fashion, both his immortality and that of his relationship with Dolores: ‘and this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.’ One is left to question the validity of truth—truth of the assertion of the novel as a realistic portrayal of the Novel’s reality—as expressed by its narrator. Humbert is unquestionably an unreliable narrator, much like many of Poe’s narrators such as in The Cask of Amontillado through which every undergrad writes their first essay on unreliable narration.

In a kingdom by the sea.

The allusions to Poe’s work is highly critical to the understanding of Lolita. As Humbert would wish it to be understood, Humbert’s nymphomania stems from a romance pruned by death with Annabel Leigh during his youthful years. The two star-crossed pre-teens shared a summer fling before her untimely death, leaving Humbert’s sexual attraction stunted to those of similar budding maturity. The name and the constant references to a kingdom by the sea allude to the poem Annabel Lee by Edgar Allan Poe, an author who married his 13 year old cousin. In fact, Humbert repeatedly reminds readers that romance with young girls is rampant in literature, such as Dante and his nine-year-old Beatrice or Lewis Carroll’s (another author frequently alluded to in the text) fixation with young girls, and that many cultures historically saw no qualms with union between man and pre-teen girls. Humbert is attempting to justify his actions by seeking sanctuary in history. However, his history of amourous occasions with Annabel Leigh should be called into question for validity as the aptly named Annabel may only exist in Humbert’s literary vision of how things ‘should be’. Funny how Ms Leigh is only captured in a photograph where she is blurred and indistinguishable, a photograph that Humbert is unable to produce. Perhaps she is merely a justification, a romanticised fantasy befitting of her name.

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.

It must be questioned then as to what we can believe from Humbert. Lolita is a name given to Dolores by Humbert alone, her mother preferring the diminutive ‘Lo’ (ponderously parallel to ‘Hum’). We understand Dolores only through the filter of Humbert and rarely do we even see her dialogue other than summarized by him. He insists that she was the one to seduce and sexualize him, but we are not present for the scene. Perhaps the seductive Lolita only exists in the mind of Humbert to accommodate his rationality and distract us, and himself, from the grisly truth of his statutory rape¹. It would be interesting on a re-read to note every time Humbert refers to his step-daughter as Dolores, Lo, Dolly, or Lolita, as she seems to be Lolita only in the sexual moments. While Humbert insists upon his love for Lolita, often to win the heart of the reader by asserting genuine love, his love lands solely upon physical elements. She is repeatedly eyed over for her physical and sexual traits, but never for her personality or intellectual qualities (the latter of which he tends to condescend). The Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘lolita’ as a precociously seductive girl, though a more accurate definition would be a precociously sexual girl as affected by rape. Nabokov teases the knee-jerk reaction in the reader, and while many refuse to read the novel due to it’s taboo sexuality, it is equally disquieting how many thrive on it.²

If, as Nabokov insists, the novel is not about the intermingling of Europe and America, perhaps the generational gap is the true investigation. While Humbert and his Lolita may have a relationship, there is an emotional gap of maturation that is evident even to Humbert. He sees in her stories an assertion of maturity that seems comical to adults, and her experimentation with sexuality reeks of juvenility to him, yet he pounces upon it like a lion lurking in the tall weeds. Humbert is highly vain and egotistical, constantly reminding the reader of his good looks. He even tells the reader that he looks similar to a music icon of whom which Dolores has a crush, a Dolores that falls victim to believing every magazine and commercial advertisement that falls her way. While Humbert is much older, he reflects the youth culture of intellectual and physical attraction and uses this to his advantage.

[W]e are inclined to endow our friends with the stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader’s mind.

If Lolita is a joke, then the reader is the butt of it. As Dolores is seduced by Humbert, so is the reader by his charismatic ways. We are drawn into his world. into his justifications, enamored by his prose and then held in sick bondage to his will. We know that his story is a manifestation, yet we cannot escape it, practically don’t want to escape it as a sort of perverted Stockholm Syndrome. We are even made implicit in his crimes. ‘I need you, the reader, to imagine us, for we don't really exist if you don't,’ he tells us, bringing us into his first sexual experience with Lolita to make us a part of it. If we condemn him, then we must condemn ourselves since we complicit with the act. We are bonded to him and unable to escape by the time we realize he has wooed us with his words as he has wooed Dolores with his looks and intellect. We, the reader, are his judge and jury as he sits in prison with a fatal heart condition (he slips so far into his literary reenactment of his crimes that he writes himself to be literally dying of a broken heart), and he seduces us to both pardon him of his crimes and immortalize both himself and his love-lust for Lolita through our eternal reading and remembrance of him. Everything we read has been tweaked to literary perfection to accommodate his fantasy in our minds. Even Dolly's socks become a metaphor through his retelling. When she is his pure nymphet, her socks are pulled up and pure white. Yet as she fades in his eyes, her socks are always described as rumpled and soiled. Socks are a permeating motif of the novel that is both a indication of Humbert's literary assertions and a thermometer of his passion and opinion of his step-daughter.

Nabokov was obsessed with detail. In teaching he insisted upon maps of Dublin or Samsa’s apartment to understand Joyce and Kafka respectively. He made students visualize a train car to understand Anna Karenina. This is the sort of book to rub in the faces of anyone who insists that a blue chair can be a simple blue chair and not a symbol. Those sort of writers, if they are published, are not remembered because we have writers like Nabokov where every blessed word is another beautiful piece to the puzzle. Nabokov invented his literary America to give a map for his character’s to race across, and filled their travels with allusions, names made of anagrams, puns, jokes, and moral investigations. We cannot help but be seduced by Humbert become a further victim in his fantasy of Lolita drawn from the sensuality stolen between the legs of Dolores. While Humbert is a clear villain in a comedy of moral errors³ we realize that his illness is just one facet of him. We must remember when we condemn someone that there are many other facets of their personality and lives that aren’t that unlike our own. This is Nabokov’s joke on us all. ‘The rest is rust and stardust.


I loved you. I was a pentapod monster, but I loved you. I was despicable and brutal, and turpid, and everything, mais je t’aimais, je t’aimais! And there were times when I knew how you felt, and it was hell to know it, my little one. Lolita girl, brave Dolly Schiller.

*All quotes from the author, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the interviews and essays of Nabokov collected in Strong Opinions. Furthermore, biographical information on Nabokov is lifted from Speak, Memory.

¹ Later in the novel Humbert drops his guard and recalls the sexual relationship between Hum and Lo as her left with hollow, sad eyes.
I recall certain moments, let us call them icebergs in paradise, when after having had my fill of her –after fabulous, insane exertions that left me limp and azure-barred–I would gather her in my arms with, at last, a mute moan of human tenderness (her skin glistening in the neon light coming from the paved court through the slits in the blind, her soot-black lashes matted, her grave gray eyes more vacant than ever–for all the world a little patient still in the confusion of a drug after a major operation)–and the tenderness would deepen to shame and despair, and I would lull and rock my lone light Lolita in my marble arms, and moan in her warm hair, and caress her at random and mutely ask her blessing, and at the peak of this human agonized selfless tenderness
There is a sense of remorse for his actions that sprout through his narrative in the later portion of the novel and ask us to rethink our earlier perceptions. This account of intercourse reveals one that is not as one of willful harmony but aggressive assertion of dominance over a passive partner.

² Perhaps more people thrive on the Humbert justification than we’d like to admit, or at least have learned how to capitalize on it. The New Republic once ran a fascinating article highly worth reading that addresses the ‘lolita culture’ in today’s world of pop icons like Brittany Spears posing with a teddy bear in the nude (we acknowledge that she is not underaged but invokes the image of a young girl) or Katy Perry singing about copulation in a living room blanket fort like a child. Also of interest in the article is the town of Lolita, Texas where officials considered changing the town name to distance themselves from the novel.

³ This novel is essentially a comedy, and is quite funny when you let your guard down. However, it is also a tragedy. Martin Amis provides a wonderful introduction that points out that the tragedy is not Humbert’s fate, which he deserves, or his murder of Quilty. Nobody seems to pass judgement on his murder, enacted in a sick yet hilariously slapstick scene. The true tragedy is Dolores in her role as Lolita. ‘He broke my heart. You merely broke my life.
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,377 reviews12k followers
August 26, 2023

Prof. Harry Levin of Harvard says it is a great book and darkly symbolical (Mr. Nabokov explicitly denies any symbolism). Graham Greene says that “Lolita” is a distinguished novel. William Styron says it is "uniquely droll" and "genuinely funny."

"Lolita," then, is undeniably news in the world of books. Unfortunately, it is bad news. There are two equally serious reasons why it isn't worth any adult reader's attention. The first is that it is dull, dull, dull in a pretentious, florid and archly fatuous fashion. The second is that it is repulsive.

"Lolita" is not crudely crammed with Anglo-Saxon nouns and verbs and explicitly described scenes of sexual violence. Its depravity is more refined. Mr. Nabokov, whose English vocabulary would astound the editors of the Oxford Dictionary, does not write cheap pornography. He writes highbrow pornography. Perhaps that is not his intention. Perhaps he thinks of his book as a satirical comedy and as an exploration of abnormal psychology. Nevertheless, "Lolita" is disgusting.

"Lolita" is a demonstration of the artistic pitfall that awaits a novelist who invades the clinical field of the case history. Since a large proportion of the human race is emotionally unbalanced and neuroses are so common as almost to be normal, novelists must rightly concern themselves with disturbed minds. But there is a line that is artistically perilous to cross.

Past the artistic danger line of madness is another even more fatal. It is where the particular mania is a perversion like Humbert's. To describe such a perversion with the pervert's enthusiasm without being disgusting is impossible. If Mr. Nabokov tried to do so he failed.

Tell it like it is, Orville! The above are excerpts from Orville Prescott's 1958 New York Times book review of Lolita back when Mr. Prescott was the most influential literary critic writing book reviews.

From my own experience of this classic, I would strongly recommend listening to the audio book narrated by Jeremy Irons, who does a masterful job of catching the flawless beauty of Mr. Nabokov's poetic language.

However, I must say, the subject matter of Lolita is not at all to my taste. I much prefer the author's Pale Fire and Pnin.

“I knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; but I also knew she would not be forever Lolita.”
― Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita
November 9, 2018
Αυτό το επί πολλά χρόνια απαγορευμένο βιβλίο αξίζει άπειρα αστέρια στη βαθμίδα αξιολόγησης της λογοτεχνίας.
Εύλογα έλαβε διαστάσεις μύθου, αφού ο Ναμπόκοφ ως πανεπιστημιακός δάσκαλος αξιοθαύμαστα παραστατικός,μαγνητίζει το κοινό του και το "παίζει" σε ένα παιχνίδι "στημένο" πάνω σε μια διάφανη σκακιέρα.

Η Λολίτα είναι ένα μεγάλο-μεταφορικά και ουσιαστικά- διττό μυθιστόρημα. Απο τη μια,εμπλέκει και φορτίζει τον αναγνώστη πολύ έντονα,βαθιά και συγκινησιακά σε μια τραγική ιστορία,υπερβατική, που καταργεί τα καθωσπρέπει και βάζει "μπουρλότο"στη φαντασία και
απο την άλλη αυτός ο μέγιστος δραματικός τερατολόγος, με την λαβυρινθώδη και περίπλοκη τεχνική του, παρωδεί και ειρωνεύεται όλες τις ρεαλιστικές συμβάσεις,μεταφέροντας τα λεγόμενα του μέσα σε ένα παιχνίδι που υπονομεύει τα πάντα.

Ή δέχεσαι την πολυσχιδή και ουσιώδη γραφή του Ναμπόκοφ που συνεχώς με επιδεξι��τητα σου θολώνει το μυαλό και τη σκέψη και σε μαγνητίζει σε μια κατάσταση ύπαρξης όπου η τέχνη του γραπτού λόγου είναι μόνο:περιέργεια-τρυφερότητα-ευγένεια και έκσταση,
ή το χαρακτηρίζεις βιβλίο μανιακής διαφθοράς και προσβολής της αισθητικής απόλαυσης χωρίς ηθικό δίδαγμα και το κλείνεις πριν τον πρόλογο.

Είναι ένα "πορνογράφημα" που δεν περιέχει ούτε μία χυδαία λέξη,ούτε μία περιγραφή πρόστυχης ή έστω πικάντικης ερωτικής σκηνής. Ούτε μία.

Λογικά χαρακτηρισμένο και απαγορευμένο αφού το θέμα του είναι η παιδοφιλία-πόσο πονάει αυτή η λέξη με όλη τη σημασία της-και μια ανίερη σχέση,μια λυρική και ειρωνική ιστορία για έναν καταδικασμένο και αηδιαστικό έρωτα.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins...

Με αυτά τα λόγια ενός τριανταπεντάχρονου άντρα προς ένα δωδεκάχρονο κοριτσάκι ξεκινάει η Λολίτα.
Ο Χάμπερτ Χάμπερτ είναι ο ήρωας και αφηγητής της φρικιαστικής ιστορίας.
Καταφέρνει να γίνει πατριός της μικρής Ντολόρες ή χαϊδευτικά Λο-λί-τα, την οποία και μεγαλώνει μετά το θάνατο της μητέρας της,γίνεται εραστής της και την κρατάει δέσμια και ασφυκτικά κολλημένη πάνω του αφού είναι ψυχωτικός,εμμονικός και αδύναμος μέχρι θανάτου να διαχειριστεί το πάθος του για το παιδί.

Γραμμένο σε πρώτο πρόσωπο-για να σε εξοργίζει περισσότερο-το βιβλίο αυτό καταφέρνει να διεισδύσει στη βαθιά ριζωμένη λαχτάρα του Χάμπερτ για όλα τα κοριτσάκια 9-14 ετών που αποκαλεί νυμφίδια. Υποφέρει, σχεδιάζει,ονειρεύεται,παραληρεί,φαντάζεται και κάνει αυτοσκοπό το αρρωστημένο του πάθος. Τα καταφέρνει. Έχει τη Λολίτα δική του. Κτήμα του. Ερωμένη του. Δημιούργημα του. Καταστροφή του.

"Λολίτα, πεθαίνω, τελειώνω. Η ενοχή και το μίσος με καίει. Και ξανά τη γροθιά μου σου υψώνω και ξανά η φωνούλα σου κλαίει......Λολίτα, φως της ζωής μου, φωτιά των λαγόνων μου. Άμαρτημά μου εσύ, ψυχή μου".

Γροθιά στο στομάχι η λογοτεχνική διαστροφικότητα του Ναμπόκοφ. Μας στήνει τη φάκα περίτεχνα και πέφτουμε μέσα,όλοι, ακόμα και οι πιο έμπειροι αναγνώστες. Σίγουρα. Μέγιστη παρωδία. Κανείς δεν ξεφεύγει.

Εκεί που μπαίνεις μέσα στην προσωπική τραγικότητα και αποδέχεσαι με απέχθεια το αρρωστημένο πάθος, εκεί που λυπάσαι τον "ποιητή-αφηγητή-δράστη" όταν απολογείται γραπτώς και φωνάζει την αιτία της δυστυχίας του, εξομολογούμενος ένα παιδικό του τραύμα και θρηνεί και οδύρεται,μετανιωμένος που κατάστρεψε μια παιδική ψυχή λέγοντας:
"Ήμουν ένα πεντάποδο τέρας αλλά σε αγάπησα.Ήμουν ποταπός και αχρείος και κτηνώδης και τα πάντα". Εκεί,πάνω στην εξομολόγηση ειναι στημένη η παγίδα.

Και όταν μέσα απο το ηθικό λεξιλόγιο του αρρώστου και μετανιωμένου γεννιέται η διπλή του προσωπικότητα στο πρόσωπο του Κλέρ Κίλτι, βλέπουμε άναυδοι έναν χαρακτήρα γελοίο,παράλογο,διεστραμμένο και γκροτέσκο. Γιατί ενσαρκώνει την αλήθεια και μια καρικατούρα της. Είναι η ενοχή του Χάμπερτ και η παρωδία του ψυχικού διπολισμού.

Και έρχεται η άρνηση της αποδοχής.

Και ξανά σιχαίνεται τον εαυτό σου που λίγο κόντεψε να λυπηθείς αυτό το κτήνος. Και μετά έρχεται το έγκλημα και πάλι παλινοδείς γιατί ο ανήθικος σκοτώνει τον ηθικό όμως ο ανήθικος αγάπησε βαθιά τη Λολίτα.
Και συνεχίζεις μέχρι τέλους να περιστρέφεσαι αναποδογυρίζοντας τις συμβάσεις και το δίκιο και το ηθικό μέσα στον κυκεώνα καταστάσεων που σε ορίζει θύτη και θύμα ο πανούργος συγγραφέας.

Η χρήση του λεξιλογίου αμιλλάται το "ερωτικό" και διεστραμμένο περιεχόμενο της αφήγησης.

Διαβάστε το.
Παρά το φαινομενικό θέμα που αφοπλίζει και σαστίζει.

Αξίζει για όλες τις παγίδες και τις μεταμορφώσεις. Είτε είστε στη μια πλευρά της λιμνούλας του Ναμπόκοφ,γεμάτη καθάριο,διάφανο νερό με σπάνια κοχύλια και λείο πυθμένα,είτε είστε απο την άλλη τη γεμάτη σύγχυση,λάσπη,μελάνι και σουπιές,
τα διαθλώμενα νερά του καλού και του κακού συγχέονται τρομερά.

"Ήταν Λο, απλή Λο το πρωινό, τέσσερα πόδια και δέκα ίντσες, ορθή με το ένα της σοσόνι. Ήταν Λόλα φορώντας παντελόνια. Ήταν Ντόλλυ στο σχολείο, Ντολόρες στο ληξιαρχείο. Όμως στη δική μου αγκαλιά ήταν πάντα, κάθε φορά, ΛΟΛΙΤΑ".


Καλή ανάγνωση!!
Πολλούς ασπασμούς!
Profile Image for Manny.
Author 30 books14k followers
May 12, 2014
Warning: contains spoilers for The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, L'âge de raison and this book

I remember seeing an interview with Nabokov, where he was asked what long-term effect he thought Lolita had had. I suppose the interviewer was looking for some comment on the liberalization of censorship laws, or something like that. Nabokov didn't want to play - as you can see in Look at the Harlequins, he was pretty tired of these questions. So he said well, as far as he could make out, there had only been one effect. Mothers of young girls named Dolores no longer affectionately called them Lolita.

I loved this reply for its magnificent unhelpfulness. In a very narrow sense, Nabokov was surely right. I challenge anyone to prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Lolita has had any effect over and above the one he named. And in principle I also approve of Nabokov's attitude towards critics, and the way he loved teasing them. Pale Fire is another long joke at the critics' expense (how many other books are there where most of the action takes place in the footnotes?), and, like John Shade, he burned his rough drafts to make sure that posterity had as little material as possible to work with.

But, if one wants to go against Nabokov's stated wishes and indulge in a small amount of speculation, it does seem to me that Lolita has had a substantial effect in terms of popularizing the narrative technique where a character is initially presented in sympathetic terms, and then gradually revealed as a monster. Two examples that immediately spring to mind are Martin Amis and Ruth Rendell. In Lolita, Nabokov cunningly introduces Humbert as a rather engaging personality, and fabricates all sorts of extenuating circumstances. To start off with, there's the tragic story of his childhood romance with poor Annabel Leigh. Then Lo is far from innocent, and, as Humbert points out, she seduces him. But the fact remains that, whatever excuses you may come up with, it's just wrong for an adult male to have sex with a twelve year old girl. After a while Humbert, and the reader, is forced to admit that he has turned her into a whore who fellates him for small change, and then cries herself to sleep every night. You feel disgusted with yourself for ever being dumb enough to fall for this slick con artist.

Hopefully, the controversial opinions I've just expressed won't result in some overzealous Iranian cleric putting a fatwa on me - one of the first things the Ayatollah Khomeini did on gaining power was to lower the age of consent to 9, on the grounds that the Prophet's youngest wife was that age when she married him. You see how dangerous this speculative analysis can be?

While making dinner (turkey fajitas), I thought about the question Paul raised, whether we can believe what Humbert is telling us. I was wondering what evidence I could present to support my point of view, which is that he only distorts the truth and omits things, rather than simply lying outright.

I would say that my basic argument is that Humbert isn't really writing for us, he's writing for himself, so any lies he tells are going to be the kind of lies one tells to oneself, rather than those one tells to other people. It's true that people do sometimes plain flat-out lie to themselves. But Humbert is a smart, educated guy who thinks a lot, and he doesn't seem delusional; I find it plausible that he is more telling the story his way, and working hard to find an interpretation that makes his actions pardonable. But this involves greater and greater distortion of the facts, and in the end there are things he can no longer explain away. It hits so hard because he's previously done a good job of making the reader identify with him; the reader almost feels that he has been lying to himself.

I came up with a couple more books to which I'd had similar reactions. One is Agatha Christie's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, where it turns out that the murderer is the person narrating the story. I remember a friend saying that nothing had ever creeped him out quite as badly: he felt for a second that he, himself, was the murderer! Less obviously, there's Sartre's L'âge de raison. Mathieu doesn't seem like such a bad guy, even though he's a bit of a dope, and nothing he does really comes across as particularly evil. Yet, somewhere near the end, you're forced to admit that he is in fact a person who will steal a substantial amount of money from a friend in order to pay for his mistress's abortion. You wonder why you previously felt sympathetic.

A final thought I had while preparing dinner. One of the very scariest things about Lolita is that Humbert, in a real sense, loves Lo. However, this results in him raping her and turning her into a child prostitute. A couple of years ago, I watched the movie Mysterious Skin, which takes the same theme even further: it's one of the most disquieting films I've ever seen. Has anyone else come across it? Would be interested to get reactions.
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1,943 reviews609 followers
January 24, 2023
In this sulfurous and scandalous novel, Vladimir Nabokov succeeds in "lulling" the reader's ethics to bring him to consider the point of view of a pedophile's story. He skillfully plays with words to make him an accomplice and tolerate the sordid fantasies of his main character.
It goes beyond the sole question of pedophilia and incest, tilting received ideas with intelligence and finesse to deliver a heartbreaking story full of contradictions.
Bold, shocking, and haunting, despite our disgusting aversion, Nabokov delivers us the diary of a pedophile by playing down the role of the victim and embellishing the most disastrous baseness of this intolerable inclination.
The enormous provocative load can confuse more than one; it is a disturbing reading which asks the reader to overcome his prejudices and give up his comfortable certainties on good and evil for a moment.
We admit the facets of the author's sophisticated, facetious, poetic, and erotic genius, who plays with first and third-person narration to confuse the reader and sometimes allow him to take a step back from the abject narrator.
Solar and lonely, this reading shines with a dark glow long after the last page turns.
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