Lolita: Vladimir Nabokov

Sorry for the break last week, a trip to Birmingham Christmas markets came in the way of my writing. This week I want to talk about Lolita, turning from the dystopian theme of previous reads to black humour. Everyone who calls theirselves a reader on their Insta profile has probably posted at least once about this book, its one of those ‘culturally cool’ books to be seen reading. Lolita was written by Vladimir Nabokov, a native Russian speaker who attended university in England and moved to the USA in his later life. The book was first published in 1955 in Paris, due to original difficulty in finding a publisher in the US. It was considered to be vulgar, as the topic of paedophilia was taboo, something that it still is now – yet Lolita does not read as that shocking. Sympathy is created for narrator Humbert Humbert as he falls irrevocably in love with Dolores Haze (Lolita), and in doing so manages to corrupt the one thing he wanted most to protect.

Lolita is a homage to Nabokov’s love of language. Its poetic description of the depravity of Humbert’s pathetic passions render them ‘artistic’ and so somehow better than the actions of Quilty, something that alludes to Nabokov’s relationship with his second language of English. The first part of the book sees the chase – Humbert pines for Lolita, yet cannot act due to the presence of her mother. Yet in part two, when he finally possesses her, the chase continues as they both run from the reality of their situation and further into their individual isolations. Part two is also descriptive of Nabokov’s love affair with America, as old world Humbert and new world Lolita experience much of what the country has to offer.

I enjoyed Lolita for its face value story of the volatile relationship between Humbert and his nymphet, as well as its creative exploration of language and its devices. This is more of a summer read though, it floats as much of its description is contained within the warmer climes of the US. This was a slow read for me as I was trying to read it alongside my studies and was rarely in the mood to read! But its not something that has to be read quickly, the story is leisurely and drawn out with even the death of Quilty occuring in a detached manner.

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