Author: Vladimir Nabokov
Genre: Tragicomedy, Romance
Publication date: 1955
Rating: 5 stars out of 5
According to Goodreads
Humbert Humbert – scholar, aesthete and romantic – has fallen completely and utterly in love with Lolita 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
There’s something about banned books that pique my interest. Lolita is a very controversial novel focusing on the theme of pedophilia. It’s a book that is supposedly disturbing, revolting, and something I should have definitely avoided, but I was curious because it’s a book that I wouldn’t normally read due its subject matter.
Now back to my opinion on this book and I will start with this passage from the book:
‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.’
Although some have never read this book I can bet you have at least heard about it. Am I right? So for those who aren’t familiar or can’t bring themselves to read this, Lolita is about Humbert Humbert, a European born-academic scholar with a sexual penchant for girls (nymphets-as he refers to them in the book) and his obsessive love for one Dolores Haze whom he calls Lolita. After moving in as a boarder to Charlotte Haze’s house, Dolore’s mother, he began his obsession with Lolita. Humbert Humbert believes to be in love with Lolita and is willing to do anything for her- even marry Charlotte, in order for him to be with her. During these times is when he begins secretly abusing Lolita, fueling his desire and obsession.
This was a brilliant novel and Nabokov’s writing is absolutely amazing. English, being his second language, I can only imagine what it would be like to read the Russian version. (if only I could). The subject matter is quite disturbing, but I honestly couldn’t put the book down. However, I am glad that I read this book when I was much older because I could have definitely interpreted this book differently. I could have been cheering for Humbert Humbert and Lolita to be together for all I know—disturbingly creepy, right? The book is labeled as tragicomedy and romance but I don’t see it that way. Humbert Humbert is an unreliable narrator. As a reader he makes you want to empathize with him; and I will admit there were moments that I forgot that he was this person who have committed such acts.
Okay Lolita isn’t exactly the innocent pawn in his lovesick game because Humbert discovers that he is not her first lover. However, she knows that she is not pure and she is proud of it. This results into shifting all the blame for his behavior onto Lolita–he makes an attempt of clearing himself of all guilt and in turn, Lolita tries to make Humbert look like the guilty party. Lolita, may not have been as innocent as she seemed, but it doesn’t change the fact that Humbert Humbert was an adult who took advantage of a child. This book is not a tragic romantic tale or some forbidden love. It is about a grown man who repeatedly raped a young girl.
The fact that I almost felt pity for Humbert Humbert just tells how brilliant Nabokov’s writing is. His command of language and visual imagery takes a sensitive topic and handles it with prudence and modesty. It wasn’t necessary for him to go into great detail over the sexual relationship between Humbert Humbert and Lolita because it was not needed. It could have been repulsive, but he didn’t go that route. The concept itself is already off putting, but the execution was great. The sexual acts isn’t the substance of this novel- but rather a seemingly innocent girl’s power over a seemingly intelligent man. As a matter of fact, while you’re reading you might even forget that this book is about pedophilia.
This book may not be for everyone and may turn you off by the controversial content, but I suggest to give it a try and read it with an open mind. It is very well-written and has so much depth; hence giving it a rating of 5 stars.
On a random note, I actually hated the edition (that was the only they had at Borders) that I purchased because the book cover was so visually unappealing (not the one that I used in this post) and it felt like it had nothing to do with the book at all. And I still am not sure if I’m pronouncing “Nabakov’s” last name correctly.