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Lolita: A Book Review

Updated April 20, 2013

'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.

enter image description here The writer is a Multimedia Producer at Pretentious hippie. Panda-phile. Promoter of hobo chic.