Monday, August 6, 2012

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

          Lolita, a 1950's well-known classic, written by Vladimir Nabokov was and still is after 60 years a very controversial book. It leaves out a lot of the messy sexual things so it's not too explicit, but the reader can only assume the extent the "story" really goes to. Some people believe that Nabokov was reiterating a popular case of kidnapping at the time where  a young girl was taken on a trip from hotel to hotel by a man that used her for sexual acts.

**  Spoiler Alert  **

          In the first half of Lolita, Nabokov starts by giving a very long yet very intriguing detailing of “Humbert Humbert’s” before-lolita days. The way he scopes out child-like prostitutes, detesting their every womanly feature, and blaming his past with Annabel and human traffickers for his own fails and falters is exactly how I imagine a person in HH’s state of being would act; Along with the violent thoughts towards Valeria and complains of suffering through it, Nabokov created the suspense of what HH could do to others in a sort of ironic way where the reader doesn’t trust HH to tell the whole truth about his past.

           Throughout the story, HH sees himself as sly (which is also questioned due to his mental state) like how he thinks Lo’s mother doesn’t notice he suddenly changes his mind about not wanting to live with her because he sees Lo, “the fire of his loins”. HH tells us how he plays the coy father role and – again because his perception is off – the reader can only assume that Lo and her mother both notice his desires for Lo (hence, Lo’s acts of “seducing” and her mother’s attempts to lead him astray with marriage and religion, her extreme jealousy, and finally her invasion of his personal things). Another tid bit of the story that might have been tampered with is Lo’s mother’s death. HH said he had nothing to do with it – a mere timely coincidence – but there’s no way of knowing if he truly had nothing to do with it.

            This then leads to his skillful plan – executed quite perfectly in his mind. He takes his Lolita and commits an act he gives every excuse for in order to persuade the reader that it’s right, though it’s generally seen as wrong; all the while, he is terrified someone will find out his secret and have him locked up. Not to mention, his “lover” that he says he cares so much for is extremely unhappy so he’s also afraid that she’ll run away. There’s no doubt that these fears are simply selfish even when he swears he cares for Lolita. The things that fuel his anger revolve around jealousy, losing his little slave, and Lo not obeying. She is depicted as an object with the horrible side effect of not wanting to give up what HH wants from her. Despite the fact that HH presumes a father-like role in public and is perceived as protective, it is not the sort of protection in Lo’s best interest; her protection is merely his best interest – if you can even call what he does “protection”.

             Lo’s disappearance really throws HH through a loop because he has then lost the thing he had looked for all his life and even made disgusting plans to impregnate in order to fondle the – hopefully – girl child. The reader is then entertained by his wild spout of insanity as he tries to track his prized possession down. Things get slow after that because he gives up eventually, relying on his relationship status with a small drunken woman for his writings. Long after HH has stopped tracking her and she looks to her “father” for financial aid, it’s amusing that his first reaction is to shoot someone. Obviously, the man is still crazy; He goes after Lo despite his little girlfriend and wielding a gun in his hand. The reader is then put through the suspense of wondering HH’s next move. Will he shoot the girl or kidnap her or both or neither? Will he shoot her husband or her child or both or neither? Could there be anyone else to get in his line of fire, anyone else that he could blame all of this on?

             The man he does wind up in a bloody fight with and the story behind all of it completely blew me away. Nabokov’s expertise at foreshadowing and side plots is incredibly clever. Even though this story has unearthing controversy to draw the reader to it even after all these years, the most remarkable thing about it is how well the storyline was put together and how real Mr. Humbert – the insane and cocky yet fiercely frightened Mr. Humbert – seems.

Even with the looks I get when I read this book, I’d gladly read it again and again. 


  1. Dear C.C.,

    Congrats for going out on a limb and posting your own review of this highly controversial literary work!

    I, personally, will never understand why so many people object to it.

    Did Nabokov intentionally choose to make HH the proverbial "unreliable narrator?" We can assume he did. Did Nabokov willfully make Lolita a precocious and promiscuous little butterfly? We can assume that, too. (Nabokov was, after all, a lifelong lepidopterist; he would've known something about the behavior of butterflies.) All of this, IMHO, makes for some interesting literary possibilities -- and let us PLEASE not forget that Nabokov was writing fiction, not fact. Nabokov was in no wise, no way, espousing pederasty or pedophilia.

    In any case, let the controversy burn on (thanks to you and your Blogsite, C.C.)! And while you're at it, why not introduce E. L. James's FIFTY SHADES OF GREY as an additional controversial topic? Or has that already been done to death?


  2. Thank you for your input! I think the concept is highly controversial whether it's fiction or not because some people believe if you even think about certain things then you "must be insane". They do the same thing when someone is suicidal or if they just think about suicide. One mention of something people find "insane" and you supposedly belong in a straight jacket.

    I was thinking about reviewing Fifty Shades of Grey, only because all that hype brings about more viewers. However, I'm not sure I can make it through a book with what others refer to as "poorly written" sex scenes. My more recent readings and options for reviews have been independently published and far more interesting -- though, they're sadly not receiving the hype they deserve. I figure it's a more worthy way to spend my time since these authors need the publicity.

    **I hate giving publicity to those who don't deserve it**