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Book Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita

Blurb:

Always conceived of as shocking but also a brilliant satire, Humbert the serial fantasist continues to entice readers and lead Lolita to both fame and infamy.

Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged, fastidious college professor. He also likes little girls. And none more so than Lolita, who he’ll do anything to possess. Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? …Or is he all of these?

Rating: 4.5 Stars

My Review:

Intensely lyrical and poignantly expressed – that is how I found Lolita to be. Written by the acclaimed writer, Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita is much more than just a work of fiction. It is a hallmark in the world of literature; an insight into the writer’s mind and more specifically, a tale of incest and paedophilia that could not have been told in a more brutally candid manner.

Lolita is the story of a man called Humbert and his sexual obsession with his stepdaughter, Dolores Haze whom he refers to as “Lolita”. Humbert narrates and takes us through the start of this obsession with the daughter of his landlady (whom he later marries) and then, how he escapes with her and stories of his sexual conquest and possessive behavior. In his narration, Humbert tries to tone down the intensity of his crime through subtle humor and rationale as to why he had to do what he did. He continually tries to shield himself from the reader’s anger and disgust by narrating things in a less intense manner. And this is where I feel Nabokov excels as a writer. He is extremely successful in presenting to us a story of lust and crime sprinkled with all the carnal acts without being too pornographic.

What I do not quite agree with is when I see reviews of Lolita as “the only convincing love story of our century”! No, it isn’t a love story. It is far from being one. It is a story of a man caught in his own sick obsession with his step-daughter and all his efforts to get her for life. Lolita is not about Dolores as a seductress unlike popular misconception. Though seen as quite experienced for her age, its all how Humbert sees her. The torrid affair between them is how Humbert feels and sees it. Just a single point of view! While Dolores is seen entering into this relationship or arrangement with Humbert with consent, can we really take that into account considering her nobility? This book challenges us – the readers to consider the boundaries of child-father relationship or rather, a child in general.

Lolita is a genuine piece of work howsoever shocking and disgusting it may be. The subject covered made me sick to the core (it covers one of the few topics that disturb me from the inside) and at a point in time, I was sat thinking if I could continue reading this book. Had it not been for some motivation from my bookstagram friends, I would not have dared to complete this book. On the hindsight though, I am glad I did. Lolita is one man’s depiction of perverted behavior which deserves praises for his lyrical genius and hilarious narration. But then again, one can misconstrue the book as cheapness personified if we looked at the subject in isolation. Nabokov was a confident and bold writer who penned Lolita way ahead of its times. While it may set you back emotionally, it is a must read. And it definitely takes a true genius to be able to write and accomplish what Nabokov did.

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