Lolita: A Book Review

Updated Apr 30, 2013 01:34am

'you have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine.’

Don’t quote me on this but I highly doubt that anyone who has enjoyed reading the gifts of the English language will be oblivious to Lolita. Even if you have not actually read the book or shudder seen the movie, you probably know about Lolita. If you don’t, you will now. So it’s a win/win situation. The skeleton of the plot is this; a man, three decades older than his object of affection and adoration narrates the tale, quite unreliably, of the trials and tribulations of being afflicted with such a select taste in the opposite sex.

Humbert Humbert is presented to us, the readers, as a deeply passionate man who is far and above his mundane surroundings. He is educated, intelligent and cultured, and through this paradigm he takes you to a world of beauty where there was only dreariness. He transports us away from the mediocrity of real life and into a haven ruled by Midas, a ‘rosy, gold dusted’ bubble of ‘golden brown’ skin, and ‘golden giggle(s)’. The journey begins at the end, with a man apologising on behalf of the depravity that you will be bestowed with, but won’t really see. So skilled is Nabokov and so determinedly attached to aesthetic value that even the ugliest of imagery, the starkest of crimes flow by so fluidly through your consciousness that you don’t even realize that he is violating you.

Lolita, who is the center of this narrative, the nucleus of the discourse, the madness of our protagonists’ desire and the nail in his crucifix, is actually, comparatively, silent throughout the novel. All that you, ‘dear reader’ can discern is what our narrator deems you worthy of knowing. Humbert, though tangled in his taste for her twelve year old body actually holds a deep resentment towards her personality and what she represents. Nabokov, through the same technique with which he makes you fall in love with Humbert, makes Humbert, make you, the reader, fall out of love with Lolita. Where Humbert is artistic, poetic, tragic, melancholic, Lolita is a consumerist rude exhibitionist who almost makes it a point to reject all things cultural. However this is where you must, as a rational and responsible reader, detach yourself from the seduction of Humberts’ diction and remind yourself that this is a child. A pubescent orphan who is being bribed and threatened with the possibility of being at the mercy of social welfare to surrender herself to the mad, criminal fancies of a hebephile. A child who cries herself to sleep every night because ‘you see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go.’

Humbert Humbert takes you on the tour of America, really the way you have not been lucky enough to see it. The reader is treated to sights of ‘horribly experienced flies zigzagging over the sticky sugar pour’ and ’opaque curly trees, a barn, cattle, a brook, the dull white vague orchards in bloom, and perhaps a stone fence or hills of greenish gouache.’ This is not a novel you can read quickly. Nabokov won’t let you. His deliberate, slow, savoring, sensual [always sensual] manner of writing with which he makes you feel obliged to follow Humberts lead and thickly enunciate each word in your brain will force you to slow down. ‘My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.’ This sentence alone was enough to bring me to my knees with his alliterations with the three dimensional greeting into the depths of one of the greatest odes to passion and destruction.


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Comments (17) (Closed)


Satyameva Jayate
Apr 21, 2013 12:14pm
Lolita is a work of art in the genre called Fiction. Comparison of its characters with historical personalities is not only unfair but also ignorance.
Javaid Bashir
Apr 21, 2013 06:04pm
the writer has not been able to capture the real spirit of Nabkhov's Lolita. He takes us on a wild journey and the corruption of soul,. lolita is too young and passionate girl. Perhaps she falls yb n his trap due to her circumstances. Like his other novel ada which is quite comp;esx story a woman's passsions and mean's craving for sex depicted by the main character uis a superb narrative of afflication called Sex and sensuous activity. both these novels are best imagery of passion and animalistic appetite for sex. One does not fall in love for Lolita but fr the man and his complex situation in a relationship that is based on sex exploits of an older man. It is worthreading and drawing ones own conclusions. JAVAID BASHIR NASHUA< NH< USA
Najeeb
Apr 21, 2013 03:02pm
This response is full of "hasty generalizations", Islamist rhetoric and a same old attempt to rationalize something that is completely irrational and devoid of any foundation. Typical of the kind of stock we have now...amongst people of Pakistani origin.
HNY2013
Apr 22, 2013 12:25am
Well said sir.....................clap clap .....
Faraz
Apr 22, 2013 10:02am
I've not read the book but the movie is fabulous.
HNY2013
Apr 22, 2013 12:14am
Abbas sir r u father or son of Zahid Hamid?
HNY2013
Apr 22, 2013 12:24am
Double standards in practice are the unavoidable price of universal standards of principle —— The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p. 184.
Kamran Niazi
Apr 20, 2013 02:20pm
the writer is a promoter of pedophile
Amir
Apr 20, 2013 04:39pm
The movie you talk of, is that the one where Jeremy Irons has played the male lead role? Remember watching it many years ago on HBO, IIRC.
Magister Ludi
Apr 20, 2013 06:35pm
Absolutely disastrous over simplification of a complicated novel with layers upon layers of rich psychological insight into the of the nature of human desires and passions. It is also a magnificently hilarious portrayal of the insecurities of the American society. The reviewer have most skillfully skipped all the rich textures of the story and concentrated all her attention to the sensual side of the story.
Enigma
Apr 22, 2013 06:29am
The last sentence shows your ingnorance
Pizza wala
Apr 22, 2013 11:47am
Pakistan correctly turned away from it because West did not deliver.......What did pakistan deliver? "Contrast Lolita as a model with Khadija, Fatima, et al, the Muslim women greats. Take your pick.".............. this amounts to Blasphemy.....
abbastoronto
Apr 20, 2013 10:05pm
.
abbastoronto
Apr 20, 2013 10:07pm
Lolita, like Dr. Zhivago, is a troubled work, written by a troubled minority the Russian Yehud, in troubled times for Russia in particular, and for Europe and West in general. By end of 19th century, after 300 of glory the West had begun its decline when it held sway over every square inch of the globe – Asia, Africa, Americas, Europe lay at its feet, and not a soul breathed without its writ. Iqbal noted in 1903 that it was a glory on weak foundations. Says so factually the Prophet of West’s Doom, Samuel Huntington: ” .. The West won the world not by the superiority of its ideas or values or religion, but rather by its superiority in applying organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact, non-Westerners never do ..” —— The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, p. 51. England, France, Holland, et al, those successful at the loot by pushing opium on China and de-industrialization on India ended with Democracy, the rules of the moneyed Demos. But failed colonialialists Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain turned to Fascism. Russia, a kind people, has a Revolution with workers in charge. In such time Russian anti-worker elite knew not what to do. Nabokov and Pasternak, both upper class moneyed yehud, turned to futile titillation, ending up with “masterpieces” that the yehud lover West so prizes today. Iqbal’s prophetic words of “ye tehzib apnay khanjar se khud kushi karegi” came true within a generation. Suicide of 120,000,000 (1 in 4) in mere 31 years in wars, gulags, concentration camps, forced collectivization. Followed by forced de-colonization, Dien-Bien-Phu and Ho-Chi-Minh city rout, Iraq-Af-Pak debacle, then financial meltdown, indebtedness, depression, despair. Lolita foretells that in a geriatric civilization below replenishment young men do not want a family and responsibility, so young girls have to fight for older men with money. Even that is not helping much for childless West for there is something rotten in this civilization - Muslims take note. After experimenting with “Westernization” Pakistan correctly turned away from it because West did not deliver. Hopefully, they will reject Democracy too after the current Election circus leads to a group of bigger crooks. Contrast Lolita as a model with Khadija, Fatima, et al, the Muslim women greats. Take your pick. (The poster is past professor of Business and past professor of Engineering, and has done graduate work in Russian and Slavic literatures).
Katie
Apr 21, 2013 07:24am
It's true - this novel takes forever to read. Thank god, because it's beautiful and I loved every word of it. Now, this book IS about pedophilia. But the haunting, absolutely enchanting part of all of it, is that Nabokov makes Humbert so likable, that he doesn't seem like a bad person. You start routing for Humbert and out of no where you want Lolita to end up with him. Then you catch yourself somewhere around the middle of the novel, and you realize you've been tricked. You tell yourself, no, this is wrong, he's a pedophile, and this is wrong. But then why is he so nice? Humbert is such an unreliable character, that you don't know what to believe. It's all a big trap of what's acceptable in society, what morals you have. It's a story of tragedy. Both the characters ultimately die, both scarred by each other. I recommend this book like crazy. It makes you question what you believe in. You'll be trapped in the poetic form of the novel, the deep, detailed descriptions of Lolita. You won't want to put it down. By the way, about the movie. I recommend the 1962 version all the way. James Mason is a perfect Humbert and Sue Lyon was a perfect Lolita.
abbastoronto
Apr 21, 2013 09:09pm
SJ: Greetings from Montreal Oh really!!! Too bad they do not differentiate that here in north America. Many thanks for pointing that. Where were you when I was doing my graduate work in Literature, well, but better late than never for deliverance from ignorance. Here reality is ignored and the silver screen taken for Reality. I guess you are not from India where Bollywood is the ultimate reality.
hyderphd74
Apr 22, 2013 02:15am
Please go over at least once what you have written. You will be able to catch the typing errors and missing letters before others find out. Or turn on your spell check !!!