Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

About the Book

Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged, fastidious college professor. He also likes little girls. And none more so than Lolita, who he'll do anything to possess. 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?


For some of you, this review may seem a bit belated but yes, even with an English undergrad course under my belt, I never picked up Lolita until one hot December day, next to the pool and surrounded by friends. Their first reaction was to wonder why I would want to read a book about a paedophile. But this book is so much more than that! 

Lolita, to me, was a combination of controversial comedy and truth in its most raw. In fact, some more acclaimed reviews, have termed Lolita as being ‘one of the funniest serious novels’. It is very 18th century, which is my way of saying you have to be alert to understand the text. 

Nevertheless, Lolita is a work of genius! Reading Lolita left me with a desperate emotion to choose a side, yet the hesitancy to choose one. It was vulgar, pleasurable, faulted, understanding and tragic all in between my two hands. 

Certainly, it is an unusual book, filtered with scenes and dialogue that are unique and questioning in how apt they are for a troubled nay, disturbed, man and a facetious young girl.

Knowing the basis of the story, surely the reader cannot feel empathy for Humbert? Yet, I found myself considering him an abandoned animal at times; how in love (or the idea of) he was with Lolita and the conniving methods of this supposedly-naive Lolita, him accepting it and going back to her with his tail behind his legs. Of course, this is not to say that the reader does not recognise the savageness of the story, the horror and mental instability of Humbert and his desires. 

What I am simply suggesting is that Lolita opens doors to the dimensions of humanity, that good and evil can co-exist in the same being. The reader can recognise the awfulness of Humbert’s actions, the shock of the journey of the book, while at the same time, recognising the fragility of the characters and their story, and come to some understanding that perhaps there are no clear lines between what-and who-is right and wrong.

A true classic, a twisted love story, which left me contemplating the ceiling for days.

Review by Tarryn Talbot

Have you read Lolita? Let us know what you thought?


Shelagh said...

Fabulous review Tarryn! I have to be honest and admit that I've always avoided this book because of the theme of pedophilia. But perhaps as an older reader I should give it a try.

Kate said...

I love your thoughts and agree. I read it basically because it was a "classic" and thought I should. The first read made me feel very uncomfortable with the topic. But with every re read, I find more and more things that I deliciously love about the book that has nothing to do with the topic but everything about the brilliance of Nabakov's writing skill. He is simply brilliant.

Hindi SMS said...

"Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.My sin, my soul. Lo-Lee-Ta.The tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps..."
This is a gem of a book.
I read it once, and I am reading it again. Somehow the book has managed to become even more beautiful and entertaining.
An absolute must-read to anyone who loves reading.
Despite the controversial subject matter of the novel, Lolita is a comedy, and simply, a joy to read.

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