Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Title: Lolita
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
Publisher: Penguin Books
Released: 1955
Pages: 361 (Paperback)
Buy: Amazon

The book chronicles the life of its narrator and protagonist, Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged, fastidious college professor, focusing on his disastrous love affair with a young girl (he happens to like little girls), named Lolita, whom he'll do anything to possess. In this dark, comic novel, Nabokov paints a complex portrait of obsession that reveals Humbert to be both a monster and a wild romantic who fails to attain his ideal. Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? Or is he all of these?

I came across this book when reading The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - it was Mara's favourite book, and as I searched it up on Google, I couldn't help but become curious about reading it. Many people know that I'm a sucker for a novel containing controversial topics, and considering this novel is basically this guy's life as a - to put it plainly - pedophile, I was immediately curious and did go out and buy it quickly.

Now, for the first part of the book I did feel really bad about the fact that I was enjoying it. As much as I'm intrigued by controversial books, I still find stuff like pedophilia disgusting, and I felt bad about the fact that I was laughing along with Humbert's dark humour, and finding myself liking him. But admittedly, I did - Humbert's overall character is of someone who is obviously clever - disturbed, but very clever - and it was great to be able to see into his mind. Although I've never read a book like this before, I found that Nabokov seemed to capture the overall essence of a pervert's mind quite realistically - all the planning and waiting and scheming -  and I could see Humbert in my mind's eye, sitting in his house and watching the 'nymphets' play in their respective gardens. It did give me goosebumps.

However, I am in a way quite thankful to say that I didn't like Humbert for long, and as he actually started to act on his feelings, I did start to detest him. And in actuality, although I thought I would feel sorry for Lolita, I didn't much like her attitude either. The way Nabokov wrote it, it didn't obviously state that they had done something, but it hinted at it, so I did have to check online to see whether I was following the storyline properly or not. But what I liked about the way he wrote it was that it appeared very secretive and quiet, and overall very mysterious, which I think complimented the overall story very nicely. What I also liked was that Nabokov didn't write the novel so that you would relate and sympathize with Humbert or Lolita or Charlotte - it's just a story, with no moral and no real outcome. It's a memoir, I suppose, and an insight into some of the things that can happen in life but no one really talks about it. It's a taboo, and I think what I must love about the author is that he didn't want to necessarily please anyone, he just wanted to write this tale, and did.

As I've said before, although I don't condone such things as pedophilia and incest, I think that you do need to know a bit about them - they can happen, and it's no use hiding it. I do have a lot of respect for authors who brave the critics and write these kinds of novels. It's a new insight that we're not usually allowed to grasp, and I feel that although this book doesn't have any ending moral, I have learnt a lot from it. I understand if it isn't your kind of book, but if you are slightly interested, I definitely recommend it. It is different, and so well-written. And you know what else? For a classic, it was a very easy read. Definitely a favourite.
Rating: 4/5

1 comment:

  1. A good approach to rather grim subject matter. Ignoring the fact that these things happen isn't much use, but facing them and learning about them is important, I think. If Lolita helped you along that journey I'm glad - Humbert is a very tricky narrator to pin down, but it sounds like you enjoyed the challenge.

    My review is here, if interested: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov