Thoughts On “Lolita”

“Lo-lee-ta.”

I say the name of this book to myself, in my head, over and over again.

“Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”

Lolita does not have a very complex plot. The perverted narrator, Humbert Humbert, has always been sexually attracted to pubescent girls who he likes to call “nymphets”. Lolita is a nymphet and Humbert Humbert gets lucky by becoming a lodger in her house. Throughout the book the reader follows his thoughts and desires, guilt and shame, and occasionally his moments of pure ecstasy.

I believe the only way to pull off a book narrated by a pedophile is through poetic prose. The plot is not much alone, but when combined with Nabokov’s wit and humor it can claim its place on the shelf of modern classics. Looking at the story through Humbert Humbert’s perspective is also very interesting. You find yourself agreeing or even sympathizing with this charming narrator, only to become outraged at his sick way of thinking a couple of pages later. His outbursts of passion and declarations of love for poor little Lolita add a lot to the narration as well.

It took me very long to finish this book and I feel like I butchered it because of this. It was not an easy book to read (for me, at least) partly because of all the fancy words and references the author used. Nevertheless I was also amazed by them, because Nabokov’s mother tongue is not English. Something we have in common I suppose.

I know that nothing about Humbert Humbert should be considered romantic, but some of his passionate outbursts impressed me. I was mostly impressed by the poetic style of it all.

“It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight.”

“I looked and looked at her, and I knew, as clearly as I know that I will die, that I loved her more than anything I had ever seen or imagined on earth.”

And here’s the one I liked the most:

“I loved you. I was a pentapod monster, but I loved you. I was despicable and brutal, and turpid, and everything, mais je t’aimais, je t’aimais! And there were times when I knew how you felt, and it was hell to know it, my little one. Lolita girl, brave Dolly Schiller.”

Here’s an outburst of my own. We could have had so much fun together, we already were, but you couldn’t see it. And now I’m hurt, to the degree that I find myself wishing that she bores you silly. But these are ugly thoughts to be having. Not nearly as ugly as Humbert Humbert’s but ugly nevertheless.

Nevermind about me though. I’ll bounce back like I always do. I can’t say the same for Humbert Humbert- but he was deluding himself for the most part anyway. There wasn’t anything to begin with for him. Reader, I recommend this book if you want to dive into the mind of a pedophile and are hungry for a literary feast. If the first paragraph draws you in, then so will the rest of the book.

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2 thoughts on “Thoughts On “Lolita”

  1. There’s not a single day where flipping through Lolita, looking for Nabokov’s gems, do not inspire and structure my own prose.

    I remember an anecdotal related from (Adolf) Eichmann’s trial. The young military officer in charge of his well-being handed him Lolita for some fun reading. Perhaps out of a cruel sense? History does not tell us. What history does tell us, however, is that after two days Eichmann returned it, visibly indignant; “Quite an unwholesome book” (“Das ist aber ein sehr unerfreuliches Buch”).

    I have a post-it note of Eichmann’s ‘review’ on the front cover. I can’t imagine a better one. I cannot imagine better praise for a book than to be considered unwholesome by Eichmann.

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