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When it was published in 1955, Lolita immediately became a cause celebre because of the freedom and sophistication with which it handled the unusual erotic predilections of its protagonist. But Vladimir Nabokov’s wise, ironic, elegant masterpiece owes its stature as one of the twentieth century’s novels of record not to the controversy its material aroused but to its author’s use of that material to tell a love story almost shocking in its beauty and tenderness. Awe and exhilaration–along with heartbreak and mordant wit–abound in this account of the aging Humbert Humbert’s obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America, but most of all, it is a meditation on love–love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.
Madness. Nabokov’s writing was exquisite.
Reading Lolita was a gruelling experience, because of my warring emotions. I should be disgusted, but I was not. I became entranced with Humbert’s absurdity that he calls his life. The idea of enjoyability despite the controversy of Vladimir Nabokov‘s story made my reading experience all the more compelling.
Lolita. Manipulative, shrewd, beguiling. She won’t get any pity from me. She’s clever enough to understand the situation she’s in with Humbert (and get out of it). Should I hate Humbert for his perversions? I am more inclined to hate Lolita for her falseness.
Humbert‘s portrayal of his love for Lolita is thought-provoking. Was he self-serving, struggling against the norms of society, or downright sick to be attracted to nymphets like Lolita? Those scenes where Humbert defends, justifies his actions to readers as simple acts o f a man in love, it was amusing. Crazy talk from him yes, but still engaging.
In the end, despair clung to Humbert like leech to one’s skin.
Lolita is riveting, once you see past Humbert’s sick mind. Temptation to fall for his machinations is great, given that Vladimir Nabokov wrote so tantalizingly, you would question the rightness to judge him.
LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
Paperback, 50th Anniversary Edition, 317 pages
Published March 13th 1989 by Vintage International (first published 1955)