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REVIEW: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

0679723161.01.LZZZZZZZI wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this book up; I recall flipping through my parents’ copy in my adolescence, fruitlessly trying to find dirty scenes. Now, 25 years later, I had by osmosis picked up the basic plot of the book and been inculcated with the general cultural understanding of what a “Lolita” or a “nymphet” is meant to represent (more on that in a bit).

I find postmodern books difficult to review. On the one hand, there is a story and characterization in Lolita – an interesting story and interesting characterization, actually. But my perhaps simplistic take on postmodernism dictates that in focusing on the story and the characters, I am missing some larger point – that by taking the characters literally I am being hopelessly unsophisticated in my evaluation of the book. Indeed, there are themes here – the use of language to enthrall and obfuscate, the expatriate experience, American consumerism, to name a few – that transcend the basic story of an aging pederast and his “love” for a rather unremarkable 12-year-old girl. But there is, again, a story, and for the purposes of this review that’s mostly what I’ll be talking about.

This being a review, I suppose I should give a plot synopsis, for anyone unfamiliar with Lolita. Humbert Humbert (an alias) tells the story from a jail cell as he awaits trial for a crime that is only revealed at the end of the book. The book actually begins with notes from a psychiatrist who has studied Humbert’s case; he reveals that Humbert died of a heart attack in jail and Lolita died in childbirth (Humbert has specified that the story may only be published after Lolita’s death, which he imagines will be long after his own; he’s wrong about that). Humbert details his upbringing on the French Riviera, raised by his father (a hotelier) and his aunt after his mother’s untimely death. The pivotal occasion of his childhood, he would have you believe, was the youthful passion he conceived for a visitor to the hotel, Annabel Leigh (the similarity to the Poe poem is intentional and the book contains a number of allusions to it). Both are around 12 at the time, and being that young Annabel is fairly strictly chaperoned by her parents, their furtive attempts to consummate said passion are continually thwarted. Annabel and her family leave the resort, and four months later she is dead of typhus. From that moment on (again, at least from Humbert’s point of view), he is obsessed with “nymphets”, young girls (between 9 and 14) that he believes possess a certain sexual precociousness that sets them apart from their contemporaries.

Humbert attempts to sublimate his unwholesome longings in marriage (his wife eventually leaves him for another man), and eventually travels to America and finds himself in the house of one Charlotte Haze, looking to rent a room. Or to be more exact, he’s actually looking to get out of town as quickly as possible, but first has to extricate himself from Charlotte’s rapacious clutches. Until he is distracted by Charlotte’s 12-year-old daughter, Dolores. Alias Dolly, Lo, and yes, Lolita.

Lolita is a hard character to pin down; we only see her through Humbert’s eyes, and I found myself unwilling to accept his various versions of her: as a promiscuous adolescent, as hopelessly vulgar and low-brow in her interests, as a “nymphet” who cruelly manipulates Humbert’s desires in order to get what she can out of him, and then drops him the first chance she gets. It’s that last interpretation – the now somewhat iconic nymphet – that I take the most issue with. Do underage girls sometimes test their sexuality with older men? Sure. Hopefully, they don’t end up raped repeatedly as Lolita is. I’ve seen bits and pieces of the Stanley Kubrick film version of Lolita, but I can’t connect with it – Sue Lyon is clearly portraying a character who is closer to 17 than 12 (which is probably the only way the film could’ve been made at the time). To make Lolita plausibly desirable to the average (non-perverted) male seems to me to detract hugely from the point that Humbert is depraved in his desires. Not just because he takes advantage of Lolita, which would be wrong even if she were somewhat sexually mature as Lyon is in the film, but because he is attracted to Lolita and others of her ilk precisely because she is not sexually mature. That’s why it aggravates me that “Lolita” has somehow come to mean, in the cultural lexicon, an underage siren whose sexual appeal is recognizable to all. That definition seems to accept Humbert’s view of Lolita as accurate, when it is in fact warped, and thus is, in my mind, unfair to the character of Lolita, who, let’s face it, gets knocked around quite a bit by life in the course of the book.

As for Humbert himself-

The first thing one notices about Lolita is the language. Humbert Humbert has a narrative voice that trips along, clever and darkly funny and, well, seductive. Many discussions of Humbert focus on whether he is a sympathetic character or not, but I think that those of us who feel drawn to him may be mistaking enchantment for sympathy. Humbert does little to explain himself in any way that makes him sympathetic in the usual sense, even to those of us inclined to sympathy. But he does make himself appealing (and appalling, in turns) simply because he’s so smart, so funny, so unexpectedly charming. As a reader, you want to like him; you almost want him to like you. That seems to me to be one of Nabokov’s triumphs here – he manages to take a protagonist whose actions are repulsive, and who is frequently by his own admission weak and cowardly, and at least keep the reader with him throughout the narrative. Humbert’s thoughts and actions frequently disgusted me, but somehow he as a character did not disgust me. Each time I reacted with revulsion to a thought or observation of his, he quickly followed with a clever allusion or joke that distracted me from my disgust.

I’ve seen Lolita described as a love story and I reject that notion, not just because it is repulsive to me but because I don’t think Humbert is capable of love, and the “love” he bears for Lolita does not resemble any definition of the word I can think of. I do think that Nabokov’s love affair with language is central to the story, and I remain enormously impressed by how well he wrote in a language that was not his first. Many will recognize Humbert’s opening words:

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 down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. 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. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.

…but every page is larded with magical, hysterical and heartbreaking prose:

And so we rolled East, I more devastated than braced with the satisfaction of my passion, and she glowing with health, her bi-iliac garland still as brief as a lad’s, although she had added two inches to her stature and eight pounds to her weight. We had been everywhere. We had really seen nothing. And I catch myself thinking today that our long journey had only defiled with a sinuous trail of slime the lovely, trustful, dreamy, enormous country that by then, in retrospect, was no more to us than a collection of dog-eared maps, ruined tour books, old tires, and her sobs in the night -’ every night, every night -’ the moment I feigned sleep.

…and though I felt guilty at times for laughing, Humbert’s casual contempt for Charlotte Haze – never too malicious, even when he’s considering knocking her off so he can be alone with Lolita – was very amusing (he routinely refers to her as “the Haze”, or sometimes, “big Haze”, in contrast to Lo, who is, of course, “little Haze”).

I’m not sure, ultimately, that I entirely “get” all that Lolita is about. But it impressed me, it made me laugh, and it moved me. It’s a brilliant novel. Grade: A.

Jennie

This book can be purchased at Amazon. No ebook format.

has been an avid if often frustrated romance reader for the past 15 years. In that time she's read a lot of good romances, a few great ones, and, unfortunately, a whole lot of dreck. Many of her favorite authors (Ivory, Kinsale, Gaffney, Williamson, Ibbotson) have moved onto other genres or produce new books only rarely, so she's had to expand her horizons a bit. Newer authors she enjoys include Julie Ann Long, Megan Hart and J.R. Ward, and she eagerly anticipates each new Sookie Stackhouse novel. Strong prose and characterization go a long way with her, though if they are combined with an unusual plot or setting, all the better. When she's not reading romance she can usually be found reading historical non-fiction.

26 Comments

  1. Stephanie Draven
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 15:21:44

    I was sold at the three taps of the tongue. Lo-lee-ta.

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  2. Caligi
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 15:27:17

    I busted out laughing when I saw this review. The timing’s incredible. I’ve been wavering between putting this book in the family yankee swap and not. (Long story, but it involves my 18 yo cousin and her dad’s BFF.)

    It’s like the fates are telling me to behave badly.

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  3. Janine
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 15:28:53

    Very good review, Jennie, though we differ on the book. I tried to read it about a decade ago, and got about halfway though. But right after I reached the first statutory rape scene, I just could not make myself continue reading, it was that upsetting to me.

    Re. Nabokov’s prose, while I agree that he has some gorgeous turns of phrase, the overall effect of his voice is too… showy (for lack of a better word) to appeal to me. It’s not just Humbert Humbert, because I tried another of Nabokov’s books and could not enjoy his writing much there, either. But I realize my opinion is very much in the minority.

    I do think that Nabokov's love affair with language is central to the story, and I remain enormously impressed by how well he wrote in a language that was not his first.

    Didn’t he learn English as a young child, though? It’s a lot easier to absorb languages in childhood. I think Joseph Conrad’s accomplishment of mastering English though he only learned it age 20 or so is much more impressive.

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  4. Carolyn Crane
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 15:39:46

    What a treat so see this reviewed here! I don’t see this as a love story or romance either, for the reasons you give – Humbert isn’t capable of love. And he doesn’t really ‘see’ Lolita, and of course, he’s a monster! In my memory of the book, I forgot those awful passages, like the the second excerpt you put there, but I certainly remember all the delightful ones in this book – and there are so many! It’s such a good book.

    In an edition I used to own, there was a foreword by Nabakov that said he once heard a story about a gorilla in a zoo that, when given a paper and crayons, drew the bars of his cage, and that that partly inspired this novel. In a way, that anecdote has always gone a long way toward forming my understanding and appreciation of this wonderful book.

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  5. evie byrne
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 15:43:08

    Lolita is one of my favorite books. I love Nabokov’s overwrought language. I love Humbert’s acidic observations. It’s perverted through and through, but that’s never interfered with my enjoyment of it–whatever that says about me.

    However, I haven’t read it since I started writing, and I’ve found that writing has changed how I read. So I think I’ll add my old copy to my Christmas-with-the-relatives reading stack and see how it holds up. It’ll be a Lolita Christmas!

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  6. Dani
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 16:12:23

    I had to read and review this book for creative writing class in high school. Of course I remember the characters, the plot and the main points, but what I remember most was the language and the lyricism. Whenever I think of Lolita I think of rhythm.

    You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

    That’s what Nabokov gives you throughout the entire book. Fancy, beautiful prose that distracts you from the “inappropriateness” of Humbert’s story. And, of course, being in creative writing class, my purpose wasn’t so much to read and understand the story, but to dissect its structure and style. I have to say, that although I will most likely never read it again, Lolita is one of the books I would recommend to people who want examples of lyricism in prose.

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  7. katiebabs
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 16:16:42

    Lolita is one of my all time favorite novels. I’ve re-read it so many times. Humbert is such a sad sack and pathetic character destroyed by his unhealthy obsessions.

    Lolita was a little snotty bitch.

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  8. pooks
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 17:27:42

    The audiobook with Jeremy Irons reading is beyond divine. I listened to it twice. Someday I may go back and read the novel, but as a listening experience, I was breathless with the beauty of the language and his voice.

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  9. Kerry
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 19:26:58

    Great review, Jennie.

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  10. Maddie
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 20:30:22

    @ Jennie have you read Anne Rice’s book Belinda?

    I would love to hear your take on it.

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  11. Caligi
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 21:01:52

    @katiebabs:

    Of course she was. Humbert is telling the tale.

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  12. Angelia Sparrow
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 21:16:09

    I started this a few years ago and was enthralled with the prose. However, I never finished.

    I picked it up over the summer. The prose is enthralling, but it cannot overcome the fact that this man is planning to rape his 12 year old stepdaughter. In fact, it is dedicated to the service of that end.

    After 25 pages I wanted a shower. It was definitely a Did NOT Finish.

    Maybe it has something to do with feminist sensibilities (which are newly developed) and daughters in that age-range. I couldn’t stomach it.

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  13. LizaL
    Dec 18, 2009 @ 23:17:26

    One year the local NPR station played all of the Jeremy Irons audiobook as a serial, late in the evenings, and they kept running a promo for it during daytime station breaks, for weeks it seemed. Jeremy Irons crooning “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.” It was seductive, and also hilarious (I was about 15). I kept thinking of all the NPR-listening grandparents, repeatedly subjected to “fire of my loins”.
    Nabokov didn’t leave Russia until after the revolution, when he was already a young man. I believe he wrote a number of novels in Russian. But what amazed me- I had to look this up- was that he did not move to the states (from Berlin) until he was in his 40′s. That is impressive.
    I agree that the Kubrick film is more disturbing than the novel, and the novel intended to disturb in all the ways you’ve mentioned (great review!). Kubrick had his own obsessions.
    Lolita (seen through Humburt’s naration) is indeed damn annoying- but then, kids are often damn annoying. This excuses rape and pederasty not at all- I think it improves the story, however. Victims are rarely saints.

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  14. Jennie
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 00:54:17

    It's like the fates are telling me to behave badly.

    Oh, dear. Hopefully no one contributes any sharp objects to the Yankee Swap!

    I tried to read it about a decade ago, and got about halfway though. But right after I reached the first statutory rape scene, I just could not make myself continue reading, it was that upsetting to me.

    I can understand why. I can’t quite explain why it wasn’t more upsetting to me. I think that for a lot of readers there is a sense of distance created by, perhaps, the masterful prose. It’s not prose that touches the heart as much as the brain, I think. I also think Humbert (or Nabokov, I guess) creates a sense of distance from Lolita that makes it easier to separate oneself from her suffering. I was very sympathetic to her but even so did not really feel her pain (Humbert himself is so reluctant to acknowledge it); again my sympathy was more intellectual than emotional.

    Re. Nabokov's prose, while I agree that he has some gorgeous turns of phrase, the overall effect of his voice is too… showy (for lack of a better word) to appeal to me. It's not just Humbert Humbert, because I tried another of Nabokov's books and could not enjoy his writing much there, either. But I realize my opinion is very much in the minority.

    Hmm. Well, the showiness worked for me here (and showy prose doesn’t always). I think it helped that it was written in the first person, so the overwrought prose was the product of the narrator rather than the author. And I felt that Humbert’s descriptions usually contained more than a drop of irony, so at least he was conscious of the showiness.

    I haven’t read any of his other works, though I do have his autobiography Speak, Memory tbr.

    Didn't he learn English as a young child, though? It's a lot easier to absorb languages in childhood. I think Joseph Conrad's accomplishment of mastering English though he only learned it age 20 or so is much more impressive.

    He may have – I’m not sure. It still impresses me. All of the people I know who are at least bilingual think in their native language, and it usually shows. I didn’t find any “Russianness” in Nabokov’s writing.

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  15. Jennie
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 01:46:05

    In an edition I used to own, there was a foreword by Nabakov that said he once heard a story about a gorilla in a zoo that, when given a paper and crayons, drew the bars of his cage, and that that partly inspired this novel. In a way, that anecdote has always gone a long way toward forming my understanding and appreciation of this wonderful book.

    I’ve read the same anecdote and I found it fascinating.

    That's what Nabokov gives you throughout the entire book. Fancy, beautiful prose that distracts you from the “inappropriateness” of Humbert's story.

    I agree. I would argue that it’s more Humbert’s attempt to distract than Nabokov’s. I make the distinction only because I know there have been a number of readers who have assumed that Nabokov was himself a pedophile or was trying to create a sympathetic pedophile. Nabokov himself expressed pretty strong disapproval of and loathing for Humbert.

    Lolita was a little snotty bitch.

    Eh, she was an adolescent girl, one without a father and with a pretty crappy mother – and this is before Humbert starts in on her. Plus I never forget that we only see Humbert’s highly unreliable view of her. I do think we see a different Lolita in her final scene, either because she’s matured or because Humbert sees her more clearly. She has flashes of compassion for him that I found really moving (and more than he deserved, honestly).

    Jennie have you read Anne Rice's book Belinda?

    I would love to hear your take on it.

    You know, that’s another one I think I tried in my misbegotten youth, thinking it would be smutty. I couldn’t get into it. I’ve only read Interview with a Vampire by Rice, and though I liked it a lot I haven’t felt compelled to read her other books.

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  16. Janine
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 03:55:31

    @LizaL:

    Nabokov didn't leave Russia until after the revolution, when he was already a young man. I believe he wrote a number of novels in Russian.

    I did know he wrote in Russian as well. But I just double checked to see if my memory is accurate, and yes, Wikipedia confirms it:

    Nabokov’s childhood, which he called “perfect”, was remarkable in several ways. The family spoke Russian, English and French in their household, and Nabokov was trilingual from an early age. In fact, much to his father’s patriotic chagrin, Nabokov could read and write English before he could Russian.

    @Jennie:

    I think that for a lot of readers there is a sense of distance created by, perhaps, the masterful prose. It's not prose that touches the heart as much as the brain, I think. I also think Humbert (or Nabokov, I guess) creates a sense of distance from Lolita that makes it easier to separate oneself from her suffering.

    I think it was that very distancing that was so distressing to me. I found it almost unbearable because it was so callous — it felt like an invitation to the reader to participate in the all-too-common evil of total selfishness.

    I haven't read any of his other works, though I do have his autobiography Speak, Memory tbr.

    The other book of his I tried was Transparent Things and I can honestly say that I “got it” even less than Lolita.

    Re. Nabokov’s trilingualism,

    He may have – I'm not sure. It still impresses me. All of the people I know who are at least bilingual think in their native language, and it usually shows. I didn't find any “Russianness” in Nabokov's writing.

    Well, but my whole point is that since Nabokov learned English at the same time as Russian, he was born to it almost as much. Therefore I think he should be compared to native speakers rather than non-native speakers.

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  17. Susan/DC
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 13:49:53

    Part of what I find fascinating about Lolita is that the public perception of the book is what Jennie’s review touches on: Lolita is assumed to be the prime mover of her fate, a knowing seductress. This is based in part on Humbert’s portrayal of her, but what is all too often ignored in discussions of the book are passages such as the one quoted above, where Lolita “sobs in the night — every night, every night” — that repetition of “every night” is quite telling. All too often the interpretation is that it is Humbert who is the victim of a very young (but far from innocent) temptress. I don’t think that those who actually read the book interpret it in this way, and certainly Reading Lolita in Tehran strongly argues against that view, but I do think that it is not uncommon, and I wonder what that says about us that we are so ready to assign responsibility to such a young girl in this situation.

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  18. Keziah Hill
    Dec 19, 2009 @ 15:17:48

    This is one of my all time favourite books. The unreliable narrator, the glimpses of a possible “real” (and devestating) Lolita through the fantasy of HH and the wonderful, lyrical language. Nabakov’s ability to evoke sympathy for HH while a the same time still depicting him as a monster is so skillful. I remember thinking how he was able to show the terrible banality of abuse and how people live with it, go on while their lives are shattered.

    but what is all too often ignored in discussions of the book are passages such as the one quoted above, where Lolita “sobs in the night -’ every night, every night” -’ that repetition of “every night” is quite telling.

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  19. Jennie
    Dec 20, 2009 @ 02:56:42

    I think it was that very distancing that was so distressing to me. I found it almost unbearable because it was so callous -’ it felt like an invitation to the reader to participate in the all-too-common evil of total selfishness.

    You may have felt different if you read it until the end, but, maybe not. I understand your POV. There’s a dissonance created by the distance between Humbert’s jocular tone and the reality of what he does. It’s part of what fascinates me about the novel but I do understand some readers finding it unbearable.

    All too often the interpretation is that it is Humbert who is the victim of a very young (but far from innocent) temptress.

    Yeah, and I don’t get that. I don’t know if some of it is based on Lo not being a virgin and some of her flirtation with Humbert, but since I take both of those things with a grain of salt (since we have only Humbert’s perspective on them). I got into a friendly disagreement with an English professor after reading the book about whether Lo did or did not have any sort of quality that marked her as different from other girls her age. My position is that she didn’t. Believing she did forces one to accept Humbert’s perspective, and there was very little I was willing to entirely accept his perspective on.

    I don't think that those who actually read the book interpret it in this way

    I don’t know; I’ve heard of (though not read) critical essays that argue for this interpretation. As well as critical, scholarly essays which argue for the “love story” interpretation. I don’t understand either perspective, but maybe they’d make more sense if I read them. Or maybe not; literary criticism can be pretty impenitrable to me.

    I do think Humbert does a good job of making himself appear bumbling and harmless, and Lo powerful and (at least at times) self-aware. But I think it if the reader looks at it from a more neutral persective, it’s clear who holds all the power. Lo is a 12-year-old girl and, by halfway through the book, an orphan, totally in Humbert’s clutches. I think it takes a lot of twisting of logic to see her as the manipulative one in the relationship.

    The unreliable narrator, the glimpses of a possible “real” (and devestating) Lolita through the fantasy of HH and the wonderful, lyrical language. Nabakov's ability to evoke sympathy for HH while a the same time still depicting him as a monster is so skillful. I remember thinking how he was able to show the terrible banality of abuse and how people live with it, go on while their lives are shattered.

    Yes, I agree with all of this – especially about the banality of the depiction of abuse (another reason I resent any attempts to make it at all sexy).

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  20. Lizzy
    Dec 20, 2009 @ 10:35:50

    Nabokov is perhaps my all time favorite writer; I’ve read every one of his major works and many of his short stories. I planted a butterfly garden in my yard because of his fondness for butterflies, and named one of my dogs Lolita. I probably read “Lolita” every few years, just like I do with Flaubert’s “Mme. Bovary,” and every time I do, I get something different it.

    The book can’t be read just as the straight story of Hum and Lo, a pedophile stepfather and a raped girl. Nabokov intended it very differently, and if you can read it in the manner he meant, it will break your heart in a thousand pieces and ways. Unfortunately, the book has been around for 50 years now, and been the object of much scrutiny and criticism, much of it inaccurate. Even at the time, Nabokov didn’t agree with what people believed he was trying to do with the book.

    Also, there’s simply no way to cast Lolita as a romance novel in the way Dear Author means romance. Although I’m glad to see it here, I’m not surprised that many site commenters don’t care for it. I love DA and I love romance novels, but if I wanted to read a romance, I absolutely wouldn’t pick up Lolita. It’s a tragedy.

    There’s a good (2-part) interview with Nabokov discussing the book on YouTube:

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  21. Jennie
    Dec 21, 2009 @ 02:48:42

    Also, there's simply no way to cast Lolita as a romance novel in the way Dear Author means romance. Although I'm glad to see it here, I'm not surprised that many site commenters don't care for it. I love DA and I love romance novels, but if I wanted to read a romance, I absolutely wouldn't pick up Lolita. It's a tragedy.

    Just to be clear, I wasn’t reviewing it as a romance – I’m a slow reader so I’ll sometimes review other stuff just to make myself useful around here.

    I agree that there have been a lot of interpretations of the novel that differ from what Nabokov intended, but such is literary criticism, I guess.

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  22. Béranger
    Dec 21, 2009 @ 05:32:35

    Oh, but there is a (legal) very nicely formatted PDF ebook of Lolita, available for £3.50 here: http://www.humanities-ebooks.co.uk/Catalogue/Vladimir_Nabokov,_%27Lolita%27.html

    Edited to remove the links to the illegal digital copies.

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  23. lotte
    Jan 31, 2010 @ 00:34:43

    Lolita, one of the best novels I’ve read but I don’t recommend others to read. I’m afraid that they will only focus on the vileness of the subject and forget how beautifully written the novel was.

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  24. Fiona
    Jun 20, 2010 @ 22:54:24

    I've seen Lolita described as a love story and I reject that notion, not just because it is repulsive to me but because I don't think Humbert is capable of love, and the “love” he bears for Lolita does not resemble any definition of the word I can think of.

    I completely agree that Lolita is not a romance story; however, I would like to put forward the notion that Humbert did fall in love with her; however, in his own selfish way that did not take her into his account. This may not seem like love, but despite her no longer being a nymphet and that she is carrying another mans child he still accepts her and wants her. I am not sure if this is love as we should like to think of it, but it bares a resemblance (the unconditional acceptance of a person) to the archetype of love.

    What I find fascinating (and not- from what I can tell- discussed) is when Humbert relates to the reader, in a strange and actually human way, his dealings with Lolita. He relates to the reader that he has destroyed her life and it is almost as if he is looking back upon a life (one that he has constantly tried to assure us and himself was filled with good intentions) and seeing nothing but destruction in it’s wake. I think, while doing his terrible deeds and laughing over them he was, in truth, blind to those terrible laps in judgment and it is not until the end of his awful journey with the stark reality before him (a pregnant girl he never knew and the truth that she never loved him) that he sees just how monstrous and awful he had been.

    I love many of the interesting points brought up in this discussion, but I don’t have time at the moment to go on. (at work- bad me)

    I really enjoyed your review! Thank you for posting it!

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  25. Matthew (Bibliofreak.net)
    Jul 13, 2013 @ 11:00:54

    Brilliant review – I’ve just put my own up and I’m delighted to find that we share many thoughts on the book (although probably disagree about a fair few too). My initial reaction to the suggestion that Humbert loved Lolita was absolute denial. Then I thought about it. And made a u-turn. Tricky subject though.

    I do agree about the appropriation of the term ‘Lolita’ to mean a young but sexually precocious girl. That society has allowed Humbert’s view to hold is an indictment, I think.

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  26. My Interpretation of The Collector by John Fowles | Daydream
    Nov 12, 2013 @ 19:57:16

    […] Nabokov’s Lolita portrays Humbert’s crazy possession of the nymphet Lolita, which resembles Clegg’s fascination to Miranda and imprisonment of her.  Similar to the plot of The Collector, this novel also shows the objectification and dehumanization of women.  A distinct intertextual relationship develops as Clegg’s narration and Miranda’s progress. The misunderstanding and absence of traditional values imprisons and restricts Clegg and Miranda on each other’s opinionated understandings. […]

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