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Vladimir Nabokov Collection > Lolita Discussion *SPOILERS*

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message 1: by MK (last edited May 05, 2014 02:42PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita was chosen from monthly nominations as our June 2014 Contemporary Classic Group Read. This thread is open to full discussions about the book, go ahead and spoiler away! :)

Thankyou! Happy Reading :D


message 2: by MK (last edited Jun 02, 2014 12:04PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Nav links -
(view spoiler)


message 3: by MK (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Looking forward to some robust and interesting conversation surrounding this book. Remember our group rules, they're pretty easy ;-)

Keep your posts clean! No swearing or foul language. Also, be sure to label any spoilers so that the other readers have been warned.



^^^ on the last, regarding spoilers, this is a spoiler thread, so no worries on that score. Spoiler away! :)


message 4: by Melanti (last edited May 04, 2014 05:08AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Melanti | 2386 comments So, to carry on from the movie thread, since this is definitely a book issue rather than a movie issue...

I'm not opposed to a wide gap in the ages of two people. I recently read Mrs. Mike, which is the story set in 1906 of a 16 year old who marries an older man - around 30-35, if I recall? Something like that. But I was completely okay with that. Or, say, Hugh Hefner (86) married a 26 year old. Hey, go for it! That's their business, not ours.

14 years old like in the movie? Meh. That's really, really, really borderline... It would depend on how old the guy was, how mature the girl was, the cultures they were raised in, their expectations from the relationship, etc.

12 years old - now that's a different issue. I really do think it's significant that she's pre-pubescent - especially with the line about his "aging mistress" once she starts developing. If he's attracted to her before puberty, and his attraction lessens during/after puberty, then how is that NOT pedophilia??

I'm not a fan of the current laws defining 18 as a strict cut-off point. I think people and situations are really complicated and it's nearly impossible to legislate morality in a way that makes sense for everyone. But I DO draw a line at puberty.


Also, I think it's VERY significant that the book is from H.H.'s point of view, and he has a HUGE incentive to show himself in the most favorable light possible. I don't think we can trust anything he says to be the completely unaltered and entire truth of the situation.

Now, if it was the same story all written from Lolita's point of view, and without the unreliable narrator aspect, I might be more accepting of the relationship. But that would be a completely different book altogether.


Pink | 6556 comments Melanti, I agree with how you view the age gaps. Two adults with a 20/30/40+ difference in age is a different thing than a 14/15 year old girl and an adult male and that is still different to a 12 year old girl and a 37/38 year old male, which is the case here in Lolita.

I think we can endlessly argue whether this was a love story or a story of abuse by a pedophile and the way Nabokov wrote the book, with Humbert Humbert as an unreliable narrator it is easy to see things from both sides....which is part of it's ongoing genius for me.

Personally I see Lolita portrayed as a sexual 'nymphet', a willing part in the relationship with Humbert and one that takes the sexual lead, a point which the narrator is keen to make. Does her willingness to initiate a sexual relationship at age 12 mean this is not abuse? Not in my mind, but again these are complex issues. Just because a 12 year old thinks that she is old enough to have an adult relationship with a man 3 times her age, does not mean that she is emotionally, physically or legally mature enough to consent to such things, fully knowing the consequences. Later scenes in the book hardly portray her willingness when she is sobbing at night and in pain from their sexual encounters, which does nothing to deter Humbert.

For me, this is a love story from Humbert Humbert's point of view, but an abuse story from Lolita's point of view. I do think that Humbert is a pedophile, but I definitely don't think it promotes pedophilia, or should be a banned book. Some older men want to have sex with younger girls, much younger girls and this is an age old problem that shows no signs of going away. This book makes you think more about those issues and it should make you consider things from all points of view -is this a love story/ abuse/ both/ neither? I don't think you have to agree or disagree that Humbert Humbert is a pedophile, or decide whether you think Lolita is too young at age 12, to appreciate the book. It works on so many levels, without having to feel like you're reading about or agreeing with sexual abuse or a young girl.

The fact that it is so beautifully and skilfully written is what makes us keep reading and debating the book. I think it's a masterpiece by Nabokov, all the more genius as he's writing in his third language! It is one of my favourite books and possibly even my most favourite if I was pushed to choose.


Melanti | 2386 comments Pink wrote: "Just because a 12 year old thinks that she is old enough to have an adult relationship with a man 3 times her age, does not mean that she is emotionally, physically or legally mature enough to consent to such things, fully knowing the consequences. ..."

I think this is part of why younger people tend to accept the relationship at face value than older people. When you're young, you'd like to think that Lolita is mature enough to make those decisions because that implies that you are too. But when you're older you can look back and see that you really weren't as mature as you thought you were.

Pink wrote: " I don't think you have to agree or disagree that Humbert Humbert is a pedophile, or decide whether you think Lolita is too young at age 12, to appreciate the book. It works on so many levels, without having to feel like you're reading about or agreeing with sexual abuse or a young girl. ..."

Definitely agree. When you just talk about the premise it sounds skeevy but it works on so many levels all at the same time. Pure genius.


Pink | 6556 comments Melanti wrote: "I think this is part of why younger people tend to accept the relationship at face value than older people. When you're young, you'd like to think that Lolita is mature enough to make those decisions...."

Yes this is so true. Like we were discussing on the film thread, you have a different perspective on appropriate ages for boyfriends depending on how old you currently are. No matter how mature you feel as a teen, it isn't the same as being an adult in your late 30s, as Humbert was.


message 8: by MK (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments On the question of pedophilia, I don't see it really as a question of agreeing or disagreeing whether it's pedo or not pedo.

Rather a question of agreeing or disagreeing that pedophilia is morally repulsive.

Sexual desire of a prepubescent child is pedophilia. Whether or not one thinks that is okay, or not okay doesn't vary the definition. If a person thinks it is okay, why object to the word?


message 9: by MK (last edited May 04, 2014 05:57AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments ps - I also don't think the book should be banned. Nor should any book. :)


message 10: by MK (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments What do people think about the violation of the parent-child relationship aspect? The pedophilia aspect seems to dominate conversations about Lolita. But, there is the added nuance of the fact that Humbert is supposed to be her step-father.


message 11: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim (whatkimreads) MK wrote: "What do people think about the violation of the parent-child relationship aspect? The pedophilia aspect seems to dominate conversations about Lolita. But, there is the added nuance of the fact that..."

I don't think it matters much, he was into her way before he was her stepfather and (as far as I understand it) only became her stepfather to be around her all the time. They never had a real stepfather-child relationship, that was ruined way before, I think. He sure didn't treat her like his "child", he didn't parent her from a parent's point of view. He didn't tell her not to be around boys because he was concerned as a parent, but because he was jealous and afraid she might give herself away to someone else than him. And he never taught her anything about life like a parent would do. He didn't care for her in any other way than giving her anything she wanted. She only had to ask for something and he'd buy it for her. And then he took her out of school and drove around the country so he could be with her all alone without any neighbours gossiping. There's no parent in him, not at all.


message 12: by MK (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments I agree, he didn't parent her at all. But, I see that as an additional violation. He was supposed to be her step-father, the fact that he never intended to doesn't really mitigate that, to me. What he wanted isn't important to me. He was just a predator, to me. But she still deserved an inviolate parent-child relationship, and he robbed her of that, as well.

(I realize my comments may be coming across as harsh, I don't intend to include YOU personally in my comments/judgements, Kim. I hope that is clear :) )


message 13: by Pink (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pink | 6556 comments MK wrote: "On the question of pedophilia, I don't see it really as a question of agreeing or disagreeing whether it's pedo or not pedo.

Rather a question of agreeing or disagreeing that pedophilia is morally..."


Personally I think age 12 is pedophilia, as it is by law in most countries nowadays, but I am aware that others have argued the true meaning of the word has a cut off age of 11.

For me the word is irrelevant, what's more disturbing is that any adult men want to sleep with young girls and justify these desires. Yet it does happen. It happens throughout the world in 'less developed' countries as the norm and it still happens in the western world though it is now decried.


message 14: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim (whatkimreads) Oh no not at all, I don't mind harsh comments! They're often the best ones! :P

I definitely see your point and I understand why you can't read it as a love story because he is basically violating everything about her. But I don't know... I think I'm less "angry" at him. I understand that what he does is wrong, but at the same time I have this weird kind of sympathy for him, I think, because in the end he is the victim of his own doings after all. And I do believe you can't choose what attracts you: pedophiles are real and they feel something towards children. And they can never be with the ones they "love" and admire and want very very badly. There's always something in their way. Parents, school, neighbour, other (younger) boys/men. Is it weird that I place myself in his shoes and I understand that what he feels is sadness? Is it wrong of me to choose to identify with him instead of Lolita? I don't know. But that's what's happening and maybe it has to do with the writing... It would have been very easy to write this from the child's point of view, but Nabokov didn't do that and there must be a reason for that. But I won't go as far as saying he wanted readers to feel sympathy for Humbert, I'm just saying that that's what I got out of this book. :P


message 15: by Pink (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pink | 6556 comments In terms of parenting and the abuse of this power. I agree with Kim that he never really acted as a step-Father to Lolita, except as a way to get to her. Humbert wasn't in her life for any length of time developing these feelings while parenting, he had no responsibility to act as a parent to her, as he was simply there for his predatory nature.


message 16: by MK (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments I'm looking back in memory more than 20 yrs, so it's really hard to remember details. But all that sticks with me is that he violated her in every way. I don't see his lack of intent to parent as a 'get out of jail free' card, for his failure to parent, but more as a further condemnation.

(Literally, he'd go to jail, in my country :p).

Hopefully, I'll have time to read this again, because it sure would be interesting to see if my very clear and harsh judgement of him would hold up to a more recent reading.


message 17: by MK (last edited May 04, 2014 06:54AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Pink wrote: "Personally I think age 12 is pedophilia, as it is by law in most countries nowadays, but I am aware that others have argued the true meaning of the word has a cut off age of 11.

For me the word is irrelevant, what's more disturbing is that any adult men want to sleep with young girls and justify these desires. Yet it does happen. It happens throughout the world in 'less developed' countries as the norm and it still happens in the western world though it is now decried. "


Sorry, I missed this, Pink :)

I wonder why 11? I hadn't heard that before. It's interesting.

For me, when I've heard arguments 'for' pedophilia, or rather, in the terms I've heard them use, 'for' child rights, it's always fascinated me that the word pedophilia is rejected. The word is simply a word, it's sexual desire for "________" fill in the blank. There are other types of 'philia', in this case, it's just pre-pubescent children.

It makes me think those who argue for pedophilia don't really think it's moral, or right. They just want it to not be seen as 'taboo' in society.


message 18: by MK (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments I ran across a couple of articles that resonate with me. In the conclusion to the schmoop Humbert Humbert character analysis, the author writes, "Critics are often divided into love-him or hate-him camps.". I guess it would be fair to say I fall solidly into the 'hate-him' camp ;-).


message 19: by MK (last edited May 04, 2014 07:33AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments College newspaper staff writer article, from a year ago, last May:

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‘Lolita’ shows life from a pedophile’s point of view
May 8, 2013

Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel is a campy story about pedophilia.

“Lolita” is narrated by the main protagonist, Humbert, a middle aged literature professor and pedophile. Humbert travels to the United States and takes lodging with a middle-aged woman, whom Humbert finds repulsive, and her 12-year-old daughter named Dolores, whom Humbert privately nicknames: ‘Lolita.’

(snip ... )

Throughout his recollection of his time with Lolita, Humbert tries to draw sympathy from the reader because of his illness, regardless of the fact that he never seems to try to cure himself or go against his sick instincts, but rather just leans into it.

Lolita is the perfect victim for Humbert, as she is an overly sexualized young girl who makes a series of awful decisions regarding her relationship with Humbert. Lolita is, more or less, an idiot, like most 12-year-olds are, and she initiates a sexual relationship with Humbert after losing her virginity to a boy at camp. Regardless, she is still a victim of statutory rape.

Because the novel is written from Humbert’s point of view, Lolita’s feelings are not shown, perhaps because Humbert is incapable of diagnosing them. Her entire character is that of a voiceless sexual object.

(snip ... )

Paige Jurgensen
Staff writer
Paige Jurgensen can be reached at linfieldreviewculture@gmail.com.

source - http://www.linfield.edu/linfield-revi...

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As I was reading this, I found myself nodding my head. I agreed with this point-of-view completely.


message 20: by Kim (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kim (whatkimreads) That's an interesting article! I suppose some readers are able to sort of "justify" that sympathy towards Humbert, and others just aren't. I guess I'm one of those who can. :P

I don't agree that Lolita is a voiceless sexual object though. I have always seen her as an extremely annoying child and I don't think she is stupid at all. I think she's very intelligent but she has other issues. I think she loves attention and she gets some sort of kick out of it to be with men.
Am I the only one who seems to think that she's not as innocent as she should be?


message 21: by MK (last edited May 04, 2014 09:27AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Here is a (little bit) more nuanced character analysis of Humbert Humbert, on schmoop.com. However, it does seem to lean more towards 'he's a predator' analysis, I should note. I found it very interesting, there's good sourcing, and some references to Nabakov's later comments on his work, and on the character he created:

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Humbert Humbert
Character Analysis


Humbert the Hunk

Pervert and pedophile? Yes. Rapist? Yes. Murderer? Sure. Predatory, compulsive egomaniac? You betcha. Humbert is also a fearful, tortured, guilt-ridden, hand-wringing (literally, as he admits) middle-aged man. And Humbert is, above all, good looking by his accounts – indeed, with the kind of masculine handsomeness of a movie star. In his words:

I was, and still am, despite mes malheurs, an exceptionally handsome male; slow-moving, tall, with soft dark hair and a gloomy but all the more seductive cast of demeanor. (1.7.1)

In fact, Humbert loves his own looks almost as much as he loves Lolita's. One of his favorite characterizations is his uncanny resemblance to a Hollywood actor, with his "clean-cut jaw, muscular hand, deep sonorous voice, [and] broad shoulder" (1.11.10). He is very pleased to announce that he looks like some actor or singer Lolita has a crush on. According to Humbert, he is downright irresistible, a positive hunk whose "gloomy good looks" always get him the girl, causing Lolita to swoon, Charlotte to love him passionately and possessively, and Jean Farlow to develop a teenage crush.


Humbert the Sophisticate

Humbert is not just about looks. He's also sophisticated, intellectual, and culturally superior. An educated man, a respected if obscure scholar, and a professor of literature – he has it all. In spite of his "manly" good looks and soaring brainpower, he is shy ("horribly timid"), he confesses, becoming nervous at the mere thought of "running into some awful indecent unpleasantness" (1.11.28).

(snip ... )


Humbert's Morals, or Is There Such Thing as a Sympathetic Pedophile?

So what about Humbert's dark side? Well, he may be a self-described hottie and have a Ph.D., but he's also a self-professed madman. His world is full of illusion and fantasy, violent and transgressive impulses. He suffers from insomnia and paranoia. Even he cannot deny his two selves:

(snip ... )


Humbert and Lolita: Lust Prevails

Does he love her? Well, he thinks so and says so plenty, but it's tough to make an argument that he could love her and exploit her as he does. Most importantly, for purposes of the memoir, Humbert believes he loves Lolita and has loved her all along, as he explains in his final encounter with her:


(snip ... )



Love Him or Hate Him: Humbert's Readers, Critics, and Maker

Nabokov spent a lifetime in interviews defending his resemblance to Humbert. In all descriptions of the vile protagonist, Nabokov kept a safe distance, describing Humbert as "a vain and cruel wretch who manages to appear touching" (source). Perhaps, the American literary critic Lionel Trilling says it best when he describes the reader's experience in the following way:

We find ourselves the more shocked when we realize that, in the course of reading the novel, we have come virtually to condone the violation it presents [...] we have been seduced into conniving in the violation, because we have permitted our fantasies to accept what we know to be revolting. (source)

In a sense, by continuing to read, we admit that Humbert's story deserves to be read, we admit that we want to know what happens, less out of a concern for Lolita than for a drive to know if he keeps her, if he gets away with it. Disgust is matched by fascination.

Critics are often divided into love-him or hate-him camps. On one side are those who admire Humbert's wit and intelligence, his passion and humor in spite of the moral abhorrence, and who focus on Lolita's immorality, her abject consumerism and rejection of all things literate and intelligent. On the other side we have those who give Humbert no break, taking unrelenting aim at the narcissism and tyranny of his ways and praising Lolita's bravery and resilience in the face of it.

source - http://www.shmoop.com/lolita/humbert-...



message 22: by MK (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Kim wrote: "That's an interesting article! I suppose some readers are able to sort of "justify" that sympathy towards Humbert, and others just aren't. I guess I'm one of those who can. :P

I don't agree that ..."


Alot of readers see it from Humbert's pov, you are not alone in that, Kim!

That is a very definitely decided opinion article ;-). I tried to find one a bit more balanced, the schmoop one I think is. Maybe you can find some articles that more heavily lean towards a sympathetic reading of HH?


Melanti | 2386 comments MK wrote: "What do people think about the violation of the parent-child relationship aspect? The pedophilia aspect seems to dominate conversations about Lolita. But, there is the added nuance of the fact that..."

The parent/child relationship itself didn't bug me because it was clear to me from the start that he never had any intention of providing that and that his marriage was just a sham from the start.

However, it does show how far he was willing to go - he was willing to lie and marry someone he barely tolerated to be close to his obsession and gain access to her. That's NOT a healthy start to a relationship.

But on top of that, it takes away her choices and her safety. This isn't the story of a man who courts and wins a girl. It's the story of a man who abducts and flees with her. Granted, it's with her permission and cooperation, but he's taken her away from everyone she knows and she doesn't have any sort of social safety net whatsoever. Because she's his step-daughter and her mother is dead, who is she going to run to? What will happen to her if she wants out of the relationship?

Foster care? Orphanages? Living out on the street? None of those are great options either.

That's part of what makes pedophilia so repulsive to me -- because often the child involved doesn't have the power to say no - or at the very least negative consequences if she does refuse.


message 24: by MK (last edited May 04, 2014 08:13AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Yes, he took away her choices and her safety - agreed.

On her options? Well, the mother is dead b/c she ran out of the house, horrified, when she realized that HH was a predatorially (is that a word?) after her daughter, then got run over by a car, didn't she?

Lolita wouldn't be an orphan, were HH not in the picture? Or is my memory incorrect?


message 25: by MK (last edited May 04, 2014 08:15AM) (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments MK wrote: "...I tried to find one a bit more balanced, the schmoop one I think is. ..."

I just re-read the schmoop link. I think I wasn't accurate in my characterization of it being 'a bit more balanced'. It's really just 'a bit less condemning' :p.

Probably it's better for someone who can see HH's POV to find an article to represent that POV in a fairer light. ;-)


message 26: by Pink (last edited May 04, 2014 08:27AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pink | 6556 comments Kim, I think that we can totally feel sorry for Humbert, he's a self destructive character and that's part of the beauty of the writing. I certainly don't sympathise too much on his side of things though.

Did I find Lolita annoying, appearing older than her years and getting a kick out of the relationship? Definitely...at least at first. The thing is there are lots of 12 year old girls out there that think they're old enough for a full on sexual relationship and yes some will get a kick out of older, attractive men, finding them sexually seductive. However, she isn't really old enough to know what she is getting into. Not until it is too late and Humbert has absconded with her and she is in isolation living out of various motel rooms with nobody else to turn to. In fact the only escape she finds is later in the form of Clare Quilty, who was hardly her saviour either!

MK thanks for the above sources, they sum things up very well.

Melanti, I agree with everything you said above and you put it much better than I can say.


Melanti | 2386 comments MK wrote: "Yes, he took away her choices and her safety - agreed.

On her options? Well, the mother is dead b/c she ran out of the house, horrified, when she realized that HH was a predatorially (is that a wo..."


Right. The mother was fleeing from H.H. and was hit by a car, so if he wasn't in the picture, she'd most likely still be alive.

That is a thorny issue, though. If she had died anyway even if H.H. wasn't in the picture, would Lolita be better off is some sort of alternative situation in her home town than she was in H.H's care? I tend to think she would be, because she'd at least be in familiar territory, around people she knew and in school instead of god-knows-where.


message 28: by Pink (new) - rated it 5 stars

Pink | 6556 comments Yes and lets not forget that Humbert did tell Lolita that she would be taken into care if he was arrested, which must have seemed a worse threat. Later when they settle briefly in a town he bribes her for sexual acts in return for allowing her more freedom and a normal life, such as seeing friends or acting in Quilty's play. In fact when Humbert thinks that he is losing control of Lolita he moves her on again.

I seem to recall that Lolita did have some possible family, though Humbert was careful to keep her from them. I can't remember if I'm right about this though.


Melanti | 2386 comments Pink wrote: "Yes and lets not forget that Humbert did tell Lolita that she would be taken into care if he was arrested, which must have seemed a worse threat. Later when they settle briefly in a town he bribes ..."

Yep. Saying "Nobody else would want you if I weren't here" and controlling their entire lives would be red flags in ANY relationship - even one between two consenting adults.

Pink wrote: "I seem to recall that Lolita did have some possible family, though Humbert was careful to keep her from them. I can't remember if I'm right about this though...."

I've been trying to remember the exact details on this as well. Didn't Lolita not get along with them? They weren't close in any regard from what I can recall.


message 30: by Larry (last edited May 07, 2014 04:32PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Larry Wang I believe, legally, pedophilia is defined as 'admiring' children 11 or under, but for medical diagnosis, it is 13 and under. I think 11 is the cut-off because that is the average age when puberty starts for girls. However, in the 1950s (when Lolita was written), puberty started later for girls, on average, than it does now (probably because they didn't have the same massive hormone-injected meat that Americans eat nowadays). But this is all semantics. Nabokov clearly presents Lolita as a child ("she was Lo, plain Lo, standing four feet ten in one sock"). When Humbert discovers Charlotte Haze's measurements of Lolita initially, she was fifty-seven inches (4'9) and seventy-eight pounds. Furthermore, Humbert begins to later on refer to her as his "aging mistress" at fourteen years of age. People who claim hebephilia probably watched the Kubrick film, where Lolita is played by a 16-year old, very "well developed" Sue Lyon.


message 31: by MK (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments I was just beginning the audiobook version of this book (as a 're-read', having initially read the book back in the 80s), and stopped to google the foreword. I'd forgotten that it opens with a fictional PhD, John Jay, Jr, introducing the story as a confessional of Humbert Humbert.

I ran across this interesting bit in a 30th anniversary article written by Erica Jong:

(snip ... )

We have the mock-introduction by ''John Ray, Jr., Ph.D.,'' a spoof on scholarly psychobabble and tendentious moralizing, two things Nabokov detested as much as he detested Freudian symbol-mongering in literary criticism. As he often said to his students and interviewers: ''Rely on the sudden erection of your small dorsal hairs.'' ''Beware the modish message. Ask yourself if the symbol you have detected is not your own footprint.'' Since he wrote to achieve what he called ''aesthetic bliss,'' since he believed that a literary work inhered in the details, ''the divine details,'' he would want his readers to ''caress the details'' in his own work as he, as a teacher of literature, taught his students to caress the details of Tolstoy, Pushkin, Gogol, Chekhov, Kafka, Flaubert, Proust.

His impersonation of ''John Ray'' in the foreword to ''Lolita'' is one of the most delicious of literary parodies, and his own afterword ''On a Book Entitled 'Lolita' '' is, I believe, the last word on the subject of the sensual versus the pornographic. I always wonder why it is not quoted more often in those endless, predictable and anesthetizing debates that go on about the nature of pornography and eroticism (and to which I am inevitably invited). Here is Nabokov on that dreary subject: ''While it is true that in ancient Europe, and well into the eighteenth century . . . deliberate lewdness was not inconsistent with flashes of comedy, or vigorous satire, or even the verve of a fine poet in a wanton mood, it is also true that in modern times the term 'pornography' connotes mediocrity, commer-cialism, and certain strict rules of narration. Obscenity must be mated with banality because every kind of aesthetic enjoyment has to be entirely replaced by simple sexual stimulation which demands the traditional word for direct action upon the patient. Old rigid rules must be followed by the pornographer in order to have his patient feel the same security of satisfaction as, for example, fans of detective stories feel - stories where, if you do not watch out, the real murderer may turn out to be artistic originality. . . . Thus, in pornographic novels, action has to be limited to the copulation of cliches. Style, structure, imagery should never distract the reader from his tepid lust.''

I linked more of the article in this thread, b/c it seemed like the article is a good followup to that Janeway article that was written at the US publication time, but this bit about the afterword and foreword, I wanted to include here. I thought it was really interesting.

-------

Here is another interesting analysis of the foreword, done by Sparknotes:

LOLITA
Vladimir Nabokov

Foreword



(snip ... )

In both his narrative voice and his point of view, the framing device of John Ray, Jr., Ph.D., creates a point of view distinct from both Humbert and Nabokov. Ray represents the book’s first reader, and, like him, we may have many contradictory responses toward Lolita. While clearly disgusted by Humbert’s crimes, Ray nonetheless admires Humbert’s literary skill and his honest passion for Lolita. Ray, a believer in psychology and an editor of psychological books, does not represent Nabokov’s attitude toward psychology. Nabokov was, in real life, an outspoken critic of psychoanalysis and Freud, and Ray’s reliance on a psychological explanation for Humbert’s actions will soon seem comical as the story unfolds. For Nabokov, psychology was often a simplistic and rudimentary explanation for complex human behavior. Though many characters pay lip service to psychology throughout the novel, sheer psychological explanations soon prove inadequate. In particular, Ray’s insistence that Lolita is a “cautionary” tale will appear less like a valid analysis and more like a desperate attempt to justify his admiration for a manuscript of such objectionable subject matter.

source - http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/lolita/...



Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 1791 comments Is it too soon to discuss the book in a specific way? I have just completed the foreword and Chs 1-4. I have something to say about what I have read so far.


message 33: by MK (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments No, definitely not, Andrea! Threads are ready to go. Fire away :-)


message 34: by MK (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments PS - the foreword is fascinating, isn't it? I don't know how I could have forgotten it...


message 36: by [deleted user] (last edited May 25, 2014 08:05AM) (new)

The most striking moments so far in the novel other than Humbert's complete fascination with "nymphets": (Spoilers!!)

-Humbert refers to the reader as "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury". (Ok, yes, I must admit I am judging him!)

-Humbert's (who sometimes refers to himself in the 3rd person) gleeful manipulation of others, including his therapist(s). He is pleased that they believe him to be potentially homosexual, as a result of his purposeful manipulation for his own amusement.

I am trying to find some redeeming quality about the main character, but am having difficulty doing so.

I have been reading the prior comments about age differences and when it is considered socially acceptable or not. It brings to mind some of the male movie stars in their 60's-70's who date/marry 20-30 year old women. The opposite scenario of older actresses with younger men seems to be less common, at least judging from what is publicized.

I wonder how people would feel if the story was written from the perspective of a 30-something year old female who was interested in 12 year old boys? Maybe, as a society, we would find that even less socially acceptable than the Lolita scenario?


Melanti | 2386 comments Lisa wrote: "I am trying to find some redeeming quality about the main character, but am having difficulty doing so. ..."

He has great taste in literature? He's very articulate?


Off the top of my head, I can't think of any 60-70 year old women dating 20-30 year old men. I'm sure that there's a few, but I can't name any.

Judging from news coverage of stories of mid 20's teachers dating high school students, we tend to be a bit more sympathetic to older females dating younger males than we are to the reverse.

I just finished a book earlier this week where out of nowhere a 30ish female is sleeping with a 17 yr old male. No lead up, no prior relationship. They just hop into bed. After I was done, I checked out the reviews to see what people had thought of the relationship... Only a couple of reviews even mentioned the age gap and none in a negative light while there were plenty that talked admiringly of the woman's sexual freedom.

So, IMO, I think there's a big double standard with older males judged much more harshly than older females.


message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

Melanti wrote: "He has great taste in literature? He's very articulate? Off the top of..."


Very good points Melanti!! Yes, I do see that although those positive qualities often seem to be wielded for his narcissistic purposes.

I totally agree with your double standard opinion as well. Perhaps there would have been more (negative) comments about the relationship in the book you just read if the male character was a few years younger?? I am not sure though?? I just quickly looked at comments for The Reader since the male character in the relationship is fifteen. There are mixed comments and some are negative.


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MK (wisny) | 2993 comments So, I was listening to some of Chapter 1 last night, with my husband, while we were getting dinner ready. My husband was picking lobsters and I was doing other stuff, and it was just playing while we worked.

We were listening to the description of the delights of a nubile young puppybody - prepubescent, he was clear. The ages of breast buds, and pubic hair emergence. The delights of the innocence, and I just stated in a pause: 'this guy is really creepy'. And my husband answered, 'Yes - I'd forgotten HOW creepy!'.

It was pretty bad. I think if anything, my memory had dulled my horrified reaction to his description of the YOUNGNESS of the girls he craved.


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MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Lisa, and Melanti, I agree, there's definitely a societal double standard with regard age differences where the male is the elder, and the female is the elder.


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 1791 comments Older women who have sex with teen age boys seem to get lighter sentences than do men who do the same with young girls--or boys.


message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

MK, yes that is the perfect word for my emotional reaction; Creepy, oh so creepy (along with predator)!!!!! I think listening to the Audible version enhances that feeling. Gotta hand it to Jeremy Irons for his excellent vocal narration so far!!


message 43: by MK (new) - rated it 1 star

MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Ya, I think you're right, Lisa. The narration really brings that out. Agree on Jeremy Irons!


Melanti | 2386 comments The narration is fantastic isn't it? There were many places where H.H. sounded so pleasant and reasonable but when I thought for a moment on exactly what he was saying it just made me shudder.


Andrea AKA Catsos Person (catsosperson) | 1791 comments @Melanti

I think that you are right about HH seeming pleasant and reasonable. This comes through also in the reading of the book as well. This is part of Nabakov's skill and genius, I think.


message 46: by [deleted user] (last edited May 29, 2014 01:50PM) (new)

Chapter 3 Audible (Chapter 20 book??):
Spoilers temporarily hidden as there is a discrepancy between the Audible and novel chapter numbers--

(view spoiler)


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MK (wisny) | 2993 comments I remember hearing that, Lisa ("Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury"). And it jarred me out of his narrative and made me remember that this is supposed to be a 'confession', that he's wrote this while in jail (but you don't know what for, at the time). Are you sure it's in Chapter 3 tho? I tried to find that. My book has Chapter 3 being about Annabel, from his childhood.

"Poets never kill" comment, was that when he was talking about his initial course of study at university?


message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

MK wrote: "I remember hearing that, Lisa ("Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury"). And it jarred me out of his narrative and made me remember that this is supposed to be a 'confession', that he's wrote this while. Are you sure it's in chapter 3 tho.."

Oh goodness, MK, thanks for asking. It is chapter 3 according to the Audible reader but after some careful searching of chapter summaries online, I realize it is likely chapter 20 in the novel. (I am not reading along, as there are 7 people ahead of me with a hold on the library ebook!! Wasn't expecting that!!)

Think I am going to hide my prior post in an html spoiler link since I am not really on chapter 3 and I don't want to ruin the story for anyone by going to far ahead in the discussion.

Yes, there are several references by HH to "Ladies and Gentleman of the jury" between the foreward and chapter 20. In one instance, HH only refers to gentleman of the jury, as he is ruminating about one of his Lolita schemes. There is a reason he leaves out the ladies, as I believe it is actually an indirect referral to Crime and Punishment. There would not be any ladies present on a jury during that time period--


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MK (wisny) | 2993 comments Interesting! (on the C&P reference)

No need for spoiler tag, this is a spoiler thread .

Also, you don't have to worry about 'reading ahead', lots of folks do! It's all good. Read away, those holds people will thank you :D.


message 50: by [deleted user] (new)

MK wrote: "Interesting! (on the C&P reference)

No need for spoiler tag, this is a spoiler thread .

Also, you don't have to worry about 'reading ahead', lots of folks do! It's all good. Read away, those hold..."


Oh thanks but already done, so will keep it for now.

Also, the "poets never kill" is a statement by HH to the reader after one of his grandiose plans falls apart. I never can tell if some of his thoughts are wishful thinking or if at some point he will actually act on a scheme.


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