Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Still dazed by the stupor of melancholy and perversion that Humbert Humbert has exposed my poor brain to. Still trying to make sense of the monster/poet/victim and of Lolita, the symbol of our age. Who exploited whom, who were the villains and who were to be punished, these thoughts are still swirling in my head; desperately trying to ascribe meaning beyond the mere acts of the novel, to read into the disparities between nature and actions. A see-saw of poetry and debauchery. I also wonder how much I missed out on due to my handicap of not knowing french.
The primary effect of this beauty and poetry is that we keep geting charmed by this old-world, aristocratic protagonist who can talk in such a poetic way and then he gently turns around and reminds us of what he is contemplating doing to that young girl and we draw back in revulsion again, only to be ensnared in his honeyed prose a few lines later. And so it goes, tiring you out and enchanting you.
So, a review will come as soon as I can reconcile the beauty of the novel with its deep, dark underbelly and some meaning that is not merely moral emerges.
That might take many readings and I am not sure that is something I am willing to put myself through. But a review, however small, helps clarify the book in my head and, for that I will try.
Another thing I want to make sense of is this – Nabokov’s account of the old newspaper story that inspired him to start a work such as Lolita presented in the novel’s afterword “On a Book Entitled Lolita” – The story was about “an ape in the Jardin des Plantes, who after months of coaxing by the scientists, produced the first drawing ever charcoaled by an animal: the sketch showed the bars of the poor creature’s cage.” – Isn’t that just surreal? The connection with Humbert is right there at the edge of my imagination, in his own prison maybe and maybe in the prison that was his life’s lust. I don’t now, but what pleasure to ponder.
One thing I can confidently say even with my shock at the rest of the novel is that the opening paragraph is perhaps the most beautiful and alluring one I have ever read – It draws you into this perverse universe where every dark secret thought is open to scrutiny like some succubi, a beautiful mermaid or Lamia who lures you only to crucify you. The mind thrills and the eyes laze over the paragraph and you are aglow in the ecstasy the rest of the book seems to promise, thinking of the beauty that is waiting for you in those pages, the plays of language, the thrill of appreciating such wonder and you are happy that this book, Lolita, that you have heard so much about is going to be a delight. But of course, the book is just like a nymph as described in it, it tantalizes with ethereal beauty only to expose our world to the harsh reality of man’s nature – at least I think so. The book is the real Lolita not any character in it.
View all my reviews