In which I start to read Nabokov’s Lolita and have to stop

Published February 19, 2013 by pipsqueak

here be dragons

Alright, confession time. I knew, or at least had heard and accepted without much actual mental processing, the basic concept of Lolita. It’s about an older dude who… falls in love with?? (or so I had been told) a young girl. A reaaal young girl. But it had been mentioned so often, and with none of the revulsion I hear when people talk about pedophiles.

I think maybe what threw me was that it’s a capital-C Classic book. When I think classic literature, I don’t know about you, but I think Scarlet Letter, Tale of Two Cities. Things with morals. Books that have been determined, by a jury of Literary Elites, to be Good For You.

Lolita is no such book. This book is disgusting. It’s a rotting, putrid story wrapped up in finely-woven prose. The sentences are so beautifully crafted, so cleverly written, that I suppressed the sickening feeling illicited by Humbert Humbert’s prurient descriptions of “nymphets,” his romanticism about historical pedophiles, his young love affair that haunts him still.

But Humber Humbert does not restrain himself to trysts with prostitutes and lecherous gazing at the lecherous young girls that he deems “nymphets.” His description of these “nymphets” is heinous in itself: to his mind, these are young girls who know of their sexual desirability to older men and are willing to act on it. This sick fantasy gives Humbert permission to prey on these girls, but he never acts on it because he deems himself too cowardly.

Then he meets Dolores Haze, the Lolita of the novel’s title. She, too him, is the epitome of seductive childhood. He describes his lust for her, and then, in one scene, how he gets off secretly as she sits on his lap.

Right now, I’m not sure if I am going to continue reading this book. It is masterfully written, but guys, this is a deeply-disturbing look into the mind of a monster.

Also, anyone who says Lolita is a love story is wrong and should feel bad.



3 comments on “In which I start to read Nabokov’s Lolita and have to stop

  • It’s funny, because the reasons why you might not continue reading it are the same reasons why it’s one of my favorite books. I love that it manages to weave prose so “masterfully” around such a heinous subject. I personally love books with monsters as protagonists (they are so much more interesting than those “things with morals”), but that’s just me.

    And because of this, I also feel a bit nauseous when people refer to it as a love story, because it isn’t. Saying that is not only disturbing, it is an over-simplification, and it doesn’t really do justice to what the story is really about. But I would encourage you to keep reading it– the first half is an incredibly different book to the relatively sedate second half, and both Lolita and Humbert undergo transformations that you may find interesting.

    • The first half is relatively sedate? Oh my.

      I definitely think that simplistic moral heros are boring, but Humbert Humbert is just… well, I don’t know what I’m gaining from this book, besides a strong appreciation for Nabokov’s writing genius.

      I’m going to try to keep going though, and will probably post my thoughts if/when I manage to finish it. I’d like to see Lolita’s character fleshed out. She really isn’t given any characterization besides a sorrow her name hints at (“Dolorous Haze?”), and it’s really gross to only see her through Humbert’s sexually-objectifying pedophile vision.

      • Oh, I meant that the second half is the relatively sedate one. I do hope you keep reading it, even though I do understand your objections to it. I’m not sure how much Lolita’s character will be fleshed out the way you probably want, but Humbert’s perspective on her does change a bit. Please do post your thoughts if you finish!

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