by Vladimir Nabokov
[from my blog 'Reading in Winter']
I’m not entirely sure why this book is talked about so much. It seemed like Lolita, written by Victor Nabokov, was one of those books that a person must read in their lifetime, but after spending a few days on it, I wasn’t too sure why. Nabokov clearly has a gift for writing, but it seemed that the book just dragged on and on, even though the reader pretty much had it drilled into their brain that yes, the main character loved Lolita.
At first, I was intrigued, instantly thinking that this person—older person, really—must be caught by someone about his pedophilia. Lolita’s mother? A teacher? A friend of Lolita’s? To think that this would all be kept secret for so long just didn’t make sense to me. The subject matter—aside from the pedophilia—was quite difficult to stomach, too: the fact that the main character felt it was necessary to marry Lolita’s mother in order to, basically, molest his new daughter is just unthinkable. After Lolita’s mother dies, I also don’t understand how Lolita and her new father of one month manage to get away from school and society for well over a year—no one asks questions anymore? It just seems strange to me that this man could get away with what he got away with.
I guess I just feel like I was ripped off of my time having spent a few days reading this. Nabokov just went on and on, page by page, and I felt like all I could do was speed up my reading to just get the darn book read. Not very English-minor of me, eh? I realize that Nabokov loved words and he did a magnificent job of crafting sentences—even if they were excruciatingly long at some points.
In the end, there was very little “love” in the novel. Humbert married Lolita’s mother just to get closer to her. He wondered what it would be like to impregnate Lolita so he could have his way with their nymph-ish children. Lolita cried every single night when they were “on the road” after her mother died, but he would still have his way with her. It’s amazing she turned out how she did.
That being said, I was mildly impressed by the turnaround in Lolita’s character. She turned from a manipulative little brat to someone with a little decency. And even though the subject matter was a little hard to digest, once any kind of seduction or “romance” came up, Nabokov didn’t even write about it. It was all implied, which was good since I don’t want to feel like I’m reading something completely indecent (I mean, why else would we have the Marquis de Sade?).
Of course, I’m still not happy having had wasted my time.