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Lolita, 50th Anniversary Edition (original 1955; edition 1989)

by Vladimir Nabokov

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23,67739147 (4.12)1 / 963
Member:fl0w3r-child
Title:Lolita, 50th Anniversary Edition
Authors:Vladimir Nabokov
Info:Vintage (1989), Edition: 1st,, Paperback, 317 pages
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Work details

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955)

  1. 40
    The Lover by Marguerite Duras (roby72)
  2. 41
    Memories of my Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (heidialice, browner56)
    heidialice: Possibly too obvious of a recommendation? Very different takes on this central theme....
    browner56: Two different views of obsession masquerading as love; both books are so well written that you almost forget the sordid nature of the theme they share.
  3. 20
    The Captive by Marcel Proust (caflores)
  4. 20
    The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler (zembla)
    zembla: Handler is a confessed 'Nabokov freak,' as he said when I saw him at a reading two years ago. He absorbs the influence beautifully.
  5. 10
    The Pornographer of Vienna by Lewis Crofts (heidijane)
  6. 10
    The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch (Queenofcups)
    Queenofcups: I heard many echoes of Lolita in reading The Black Prince. Anyone else find this to be the case?
  7. 21
    Taming the Beast by Emily Maguire (infiniteletters)
  8. 00
    The Death of David Debrizzi by Paul Micou (KayCliff)
  9. 00
    Eva by James Hadley Chase (caflores)
  10. 00
    The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (mcenroeucsb)
  11. 00
    The North China Lover by Marguerite Duras (edwinbcn)
    edwinbcn: Another story of a man with a passion for a young girl.
  12. 01
    The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker (suniru)
  13. 01
    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (kara.shamy)
  14. 02
    The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (kara.shamy)
  15. 03
    Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (kara.shamy)
  16. 04
    Hamlet by William Shakespeare (kara.shamy)
  17. 06
    Belinda by Anne Rice (rcc)
    rcc: IF you're "shocked" by Nabokov's Lolita, you surely should read Belinda. It takes off where Lolita ends. What I mean to say is that Anne Rice showed herself to be much more adpet - and daring - at writing about this "taboo" concerning the sexual adventures of a very young girl. Also, Belinda is so much more her "own woman" than Lolita.… (more)
1950s (23)
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English (366)  Dutch (8)  Spanish (7)  Italian (3)  French (2)  All (1)  Portuguese (1)  Danish (1)  All (1)  German (1)  Hebrew (1)  All (392)
Showing 1-5 of 366 (next | show all)
This is probably my favourite book of all time. Horrifying, creepy and utterly, utterly wonderful. ( )
  Lidbud | Mar 27, 2017 |
Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita

Penguin, Paperback [2011].

12mo. 360 pp. Foreword by John Ray Jr., 5 August 1955 [1-4]. Afterword by the author, 12 November 1956 [353-60].

First published by Olympia Press, 1955.
First published in the UK by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1959.
First published by Penguin, 1995.
This Penguin Essentials edition, 2011.

======================================

You think you will love or hate this book in relation to the amount of paedophilic pornography it contains? If so, you’re wrong. It doesn’t matter what moral scruples you do or don’t have or to what degree if any you are able to sympathise with dear old Humbert. The only thing that matters is how appealing you find the unique authorial voice. It’s a question of style.

Nabokov’s style is mightily pretentious, yet never annoyingly so. This in itself is a considerable achievement. He is very fond of phrases, sometimes even whole sentences, in French, Latin and even German. He is even fonder of scientific terms, for example “heliotropic”, “perineum”, “pavonian”, “leporine” or “phocine”, and ludicrously formal words such as “eructations”, “matitudinal”, “valetudinarian”, “diaphanous” and “adumbrated”. But one must admit these are often used to considerable comic effect. He is highly imaginative with alliterations (“vicious vigilance”, “movieland manhood”, “carnal caress”), suggestive similes (e.g. “the sceptre of my passion”, “as much sex appeal as a raw carrot”) and the coining of new words (e.g. “nymphage”, “honey monsoon”, “mauvemail”). And there is, of course, the key word “nymphet” which Nabokov seems to have completely redefined if not coined.

I wish to introduce the following idea. Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travellers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as "nymphets."

“You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.” Indeed!

Despite his awe-inspiring erudition, certainly not because of it, Nabokov’s prose is deliciously readable, prodigiously witty and full of striking imagery. It is, in fact, poetry disguised as prose. Lolita is the second novel in prose poetry I have read so far. (The first one, should you care to know, was Moby-Dick.) “But I am no poet. I am only a very conscientious recorder.” So says our first-person narrator. Sorry, Humbert, but poet is precisely what you are – and conscientious recorder what you are not.

It’s a style that, naturally, has its own limitations. It’s no spoiler to reveal that these are the limitations of poetry. When he has to evoke a mood or describe a particular experience, mental or physical, Nabokov is superb; indeed, sublime. No quotation can give an adequate idea of the sheer visceral force of his writing. It’s not just beautifully crafted: many writers can do that. It stirs all senses. It produces sights, sounds, smells and anything else, sometimes all at the same time. That it’s often intellectually stimulating as well is a special bonus.

But when he has to describe action, Nabokov is often clumsy and verbose and dull. This is detrimental because – make no mistake! – Lolita is not an exercise in style, a bunch of vague ramblings loosely strung together, or anything like that. It is a novel, and Nabokov is good enough a novelist to keep the story moving, so far as his style allows him. For a novel that resembles a succession of surreal tableaux, Lolita is very neatly constructed.

Perhaps the gravest defect of Nabokov’s style is a certain lack of modulation. He plays magnificently his instrument, but he plays a single tune. Certain diversity of style is desirable in a novel. Nabokov either couldn’t or wouldn’t do it. He can be direct in a cumulative and rather effective way as in “fat Haze suddenly spoiled everything by turning to me and asking me for a light, and starting a make-believe conversation about a fake book by some popular fraud.” But for much the greater part he is his usual allusive, elaborate and poetic self. Virtuoso performance, no doubt, but it does become a trifle tedious after two hundred pages.

But if you find the language stirring and suggestive, and if you are sensitive to its peculiar rhythm and melody, none of these defects matters a jot. You read entranced, slowly and carefully to savour the prose (and browse the dictionary); you often re-read favourite passages for the sheer sensual delectation they afford; and you are very sorry to reach the last page (of the novel, I mean; Nabokov’s afterword is indifferent, at best).

As for pornography and paedophilia, these are very much a matter of semantics. Ask ten men what pornography is, you’ll get ten different answers. Ask ten women, you’ll get ten more. If your idea of pornography is something dirty, ugly and shameful, you’ll find little of it here. If you think of pornography as a frank depiction of something quite natural and really rather beautiful, you will find a good deal of it here, though not as much as the popular image of Lolita might lead you to believe. Paedophilia seems to be an easier and more straightforward case. It isn’t. It can be defined in any number of conflicting ways. If you think of paedophilia as sexual abuse of innocent children, I’m afraid you’ll find nothing of it here. If you think of it as hardly controllable attraction to naughty and spoiled 12-year-old girls, you’ll find a lot of it here. Let Humbert pleads the case:

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the majority of sex offenders that hanker for some throbbing, sweet-moaning, physical but not necessarily coital, relation with a girlchild, are innocuous, inadequate, passive, timid strangers who merely ask the community to allow them to pursue their practically harmless, so-called aberrant behaviour, their little hot wet private acts of sexual deviation without the police and society cracking down upon them. We are not sex fiends! We do not rape as good soldiers do. We are unhappy, mild, dog-eyed gentlemen, sufficiently well integrated to control our urge in the presence of adults, but ready to give years and years of life for one chance to touch a nymphet.

Humbert Humbert (this is not an accidental duplication) is an astonishing character. No, he is not even remotely “likable” or anything like that. But it must be a strangely callous, or simply inexperienced, reader who fails completely to empathise – or at least sympathise, if empathy is beyond their reach – with Humbert’s hateful bondage and the futile attempts to control it, if not break from it. And it must be an obtuse reader who claims that Nabokov hated his character. For sure he didn’t. One of the great advantages of great writers is their ability to empathise with the whole of humanity to an extraordinary degree. Primitive states like love and hate, like and dislike, are reserved for us, lesser mortals, who lack this ability.

It was a really bold decision on Nabokov’s part to write the whole book in the first person singular, through the eyes of the very man who fantasises how he would dope his wife and stepdaughter to get rid of the former and enjoy the latter. It is fascinating to read his attempts, as pathetic as they are marvellously written, to condone his actions. No, he would never dream of seducing, much less raping, this innocent nymphet. He wants the reader to “participate” in this or that scene and see “how careful, how chaste, the whole wine-sweet event is if viewed with what my lawyer has called, in a private talk we have had, “impartial sympathy.” He would enjoy his Lolita in a gloriously vicarious way. Never would she know anything. Never would she suffer.

Of course, Nabokov was neither the first nor the last writer deeply interested in the strange discrepancy, whether deliberate or delusional, between thoughts and actions. Somerset Maugham was troubled by this conundrum all his life. “There’s one job I shouldn’t like”, says the second-hand narrator in his short story “Footprints in the Jungle”, and when asked what this is replies: “God’s, at the Judgment day.” In chapter XVI of The Summing Up (1938), his spiritual autobiography, Maugham wondered why “our own offences should seem to us so much less heinous than the offences of others”. He concluded that each one of us is in a unique position to know all circumstances behind our actions and thus manage to excuse what in others, whose minds are closed books after all, is found objectionable and even repulsive. This is a fine description of both Humbert and the readers who are, or at least pretend to be, outraged. Director and screenwriter Anthony Minghella put the matter more succinctly when he made his Tom Ripley say:

“Well, whatever you do, however terrible, however hurtful, it all makes sense, doesn’t it, in your head? You never meet anybody who thinks they’re a bad person.”

But is Humbert a bad person? Does he do terrible things? Not really. He doesn’t rape Lolita, nor was he her first lover. He doesn’t even seduce her. She seduces him! (Summer camps can do wonders for your sexual education.) He admits with disarming honesty that when they travelled 27,000 miles through the “lyrical, epic, tragic but never Arcadian American wilds” his only reason to keep the easily bored Lolita entertained was because she was “abominably desirable”. He does fantasise about going to Mexico with her, marrying her and fathering “Lolita the Second”, perhaps one day even “practicing on supremely lovely Lolita the Third the art of being a granddad”. But nothing of this ever comes close to happening. Humbert also admits he is a “ridiculous failure” as a father, but I think Lolita could have been much unluckier paternity-wise.

Humbert is what the lit snobs call “unreliable narrator” – as if there were any other! We have no other point of view but his own, and we should accept his narrative of the events, not to mention his digressions on the historical, legal and ethical implications of his strange relationship, with a spade of salt.

That said, Humbert is remarkably candid, or at least he gives a smashing imitation of candour. He doesn’t seem to have many illusions about himself. He has none whatsoever about Lolita, whom he describes unforgettably as a “combination of naïveté and deception, of charm and vulgarity, of blue sulks and rosy mirth.” A little later he is even more brutal: “Mentally, I found her to be a disgustingly conventional little girl.” She fully lives up to these descriptions. And yet, it is essential to understand that Humbert’s passion for his stepdaughter is far from being merely sexual. This is evident from the famous opening sentences (my emphasis): “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.” Indeed, had it been just sex, the book would have been thrice shorter and thousand times less compelling. As so often happens, Humbert is perfectly aware of this and quite frank about it:

But really these are irrelevant matters; I am not concerned with so-called "sex" at all. Anybody can imagine those elements of animality. A greater endeavour lures me on: to fix once for all the perilous magic of nymphets.

One wonders, or at any rate I do, whether Humbert would have enjoyed anything more than casual fondling of his Lolita if Fate hadn’t so kindly removed the “Haze woman” from his way. In his “pre-dolorian past”, our poetic narrator has been quite promiscuous, but so far as nymphets are concerned it was merely voyeuristic exercise of “my lurking eye, the ever alert periscope of my shameful vice”. There was one exception, but then he was at Lolita’s age himself, so it doesn’t count. In his last, Lolita-less years, there is one Rita, but she is twice the age of his “pubescent sweetheart”. So that doesn’t count, either. The reasons for this curious abstinence are rooted in social taboos and personal timidity, but perhaps the essentially mental nature of his obsession (sex being merely a side effect) is the most important reason of all. In a penetrating moment of self-revelation, Humbert reflects:

There was in the fiery phantasm a perfection which made my wild delight also perfect, just because the vision was out of reach, with no possibility of attainment to spoil it by the awareness of an appended taboo; indeed, it may well be that the very attraction immaturity has for me lies not so much in the limpidity of pure young forbidden fairy child beauty as in the security of a situation where infinite perfections fill the gap between the little given and the great promised...

It would hardly escape anybody but the most superficial reader that most of the problems between Humbert and Lolita are pretty much the same as those between men and women of all ages, especially if they are forced, for one reason or another, to keep their affair clandestine. In short, sexual possessiveness (commonly known as jealousy) and the terror of being found out. This is a strange love story indeed, far more sordid and brutal than, say, Cathy and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights (1847) or Philip and Mildred in Of Human Bondage (1915). It is relentlessly and mutually parasitic. But it feels true and real; and it’s totally compelling from beginning to end. This is as good a reason as any to read this “sinister memoir”.

There are plenty of other reasons, too. Read the book for its widespread and far-reaching influence, including the word “Lolita” in the Oxford English Dictionary. (Was Jim Morrison inspired by this novel when he penned lines like “Don’t you love her madly? Wanna be her daddy?”) Read it for the transfixing beauty of the language. Read it to see for yourself how much Humbert says or doesn’t say, reveals or conceals, what kind of “monster” he really is. (If Highsmith and Mingella can make a sociopath and serial killer worthy of sympathy, so can Nabokov with Humbert.) Read it for an eloquent, yet blistering, satire of America and the American way of life from the late 1940s. Read it for its unique depiction of emotional obsession which, under very different forms, is more common than generally recognised.

When all is said and done, in the end Lolita is a tragic story. And the victim is not the eponymous heroine. Nope, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, not even close. The tragic character is no other but dear, old, pathetic, frustrated, spineless, exasperating Humbert Square. He is guilty of many things, for instance lechery, cowardice, hypocrisy, blackmail and, of course, murder. But corrupting an innocent child is one thing he is not guilty of. Neither, for that matter, is Clare Quilty; even this most shadowy of all characters, hardly better than Humbert for all we know about him, has no visible adverse effect on Lolita. Far from being innocent, she is truly “demoniac”, as a nymphet ought to be, and she ends up with far better prospects than her lovers. Whether her promiscuity and callousness were caused by her absurd mother or by Nature’s sick sense of humour, that is another matter.

Lolita has been fortunate with its translation to the screen. It has been filmed twice with distinction, first in 1962 when Nabokov wrote the screenplay, Kubrick directed and James Mason impersonated Humbert, and more recently in 1997 when Stephen Schiff, Adrian Lyne and Jeremy Irons, respectively, did the job. The newer film is more explicit, but the older one is the better adaptation, with the roles of Quilty and Charlotte (the amazing Shelley Winters) expanded to a great effect. Both Mason and Irons give powerful performances, even though both largely miss the sardonic tone of the original. The Lolitas are perfectly cast and, let me tell you something paedophilic, neither has ever looked better on the screen.

Both movies are wonderful cinematic experiences. Yet neither is anything like the super-sensual, hyper-intellectual, multi-dimensional experience provided by the book. It sounds weird, but there it is. If you want a truly Technicolor, Widescreen, 3D and Dolby Surround stuff, then read the book. I am saying this as somebody who came to the novel having seen both films. Yet neither of them let me inside Humbert’s head. And neither made me rehearse that name. Lo. Lee. Ta. Feel how the tip of your tongue takes a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth? ( )
  Waldstein | Mar 6, 2017 |
Let me be brief. The audiobook version performed / read by Jeremy Irons may well be the best audiobook performance I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

He renders this controversial and brilliant novel so skillfully, so seductively (appropriate considering the subject matter) that he elevates the book into an entirely new category of something like "literary performances".

Read the audiobook for its emotional power but not to study the book which is much too dense to be fully understood via the audiobook form. Iron's narration, especially toward the end can zip along so quickly that much of the symbolism of this complex novel will be lost.

As an emotional experience however, it is unparalleled and I recommend it highly. ( )
  blnq | Feb 10, 2017 |
Nabokov hated Humbert. And rightly so, because Humbert is not the romantic, tragic figure he wanted himself to be viewed. He is an incestuous, rapist pig and a murderer, plain and simple. He took advantage of a young girl. A twelve-year-old girl. Sure, she fooled around at summer camp, but a lot of young girls start discovering sex at that age. That doesn't give adults pretext to rape them, and if you have that mentality, you're screwed up. It's easy to get seduced by the prose, but you have to remember what Humbert is.I read this last year and while I was blown away by the prose, I managed to keep my head and remember Humbert is not the victim. Dolores is. To quote one of my favourite movies, Hard Candy (which, funny enough, also dealt with paedophilia): "It's just so easy to blame a kid, isn't it? Just because a girl knows how to imitate a woman does NOT mean she's ready to do what a woman does!" ( )
  kyndyleizabella | Jan 23, 2017 |
I love this book. I don't know what that says about me. I mean, I know the subject matter is atrocious, but I was super amazed by how much I got into the story. The writing style is the absolute most interesting I've known. Especially for something written so very long ago, the words were super fresh. The imagery, metaphors and just words used in ways that haven't been used before. This is a book that will stay with me forever.

Normally, I would think of a child being nothing after the fact to a child molester, and in turn, the effects of what happened overshadowing the child forever. In this he's so madly in love with her, and to her he's just a blip she passed over.

I love how morose he is, and his crazy ridiculous love is so weird.




So for whatever reason, this book just is a hit for me.

toni


FangirlMoments and My Two Cents
( )
1 vote ToniFGMAMTC | Jan 19, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 366 (next | show all)
Let me be brief. The audiobook version performed / read by Jeremy Irons may well be the best audiobook performance I have ever had the pleasure of reading.

He renders this controversial and brilliant novel so skillfully, so seductively (appropriate considering the subject matter) that he elevates the book into an entirely new category of something like "literary performances".

Read the audiobook for its emotional power but not to study the book which is much too dense to be fully understood via the audiobook form. Iron's narration, especially toward the end can zip along so quickly that much of the symbolism of this complex novel will be lost.

As an emotional experience however, it is unparalleled and I recommend it highly.
 
Brilliantly written ... a disquietingly sombre exposure of a pervert's mind, and finally dreadfully moral in its almost melodramatic summing up pf the wages of this particular sin.
added by Sylak | editDaily Mail, Kenneth Allsop
 
Massive, unflagging, moral, exqusitely shaped, enormously vital, enormously funny - Lolita iscertain of a permanent place on the very highest shelf of the world's didactic literature.
added by Sylak | editThe Spectator, Bernard Levin
 
A scarifying indictment of the kind of perversion with which it deals.
added by Sylak | editSunday Dispatch, Lord Boothby
 
I am sure that the future will exonerate Lolita from the charge of pornography as compleately as we have exonerated Ulysses.
added by Sylak | editSaturday Review, Granville Hicks
 

» Add other authors (50 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nabokov, Vladimirprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Amis, MartinIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Amis, MartinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
康雄, 大久保Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bang-Hansen, OddTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coutinho, M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Daurella, JosepTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Irons, JeremyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kahane, ÉricTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ray, John J., Jr.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verhoef, RienTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
正, 若島翻訳secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Véra
First words
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palette to tap, at three, on the teeth.
Quotations
Lolita, mitt livs lys, mine lenders flamme. Min synd, min sjel. Lo-li-ta: tungespissen tripper tre trinn nedover ganen for til slutt på det tredje å tromme mot fortennene. Lo. Li. Ta.
Hun var Lo, rett og slett Lo om morgenen når hun stod der 1,54 på sokkelesten. Hun var Lola i slacks, hun var Dolly på skolen. Hun var Dolores når hun signerte på den prikkete linjen. Men i mine armer var hun alltid Lolita.
Noen fortalt meg senere at hun hadde vært forelsket i far og at han tankeløst hadde benyttet seg av det en dag tilværelsen var riktig grå og hadde glemt det igjen da solen atter begynte å skinne.
Nå satt jeg og tenkte på om Valechka (som obersten kalte henne) egentlig var verdt skyting, kvelning eller drukning. Hun hadde svært ømfintlige ben, så jeg bestemte meg til å nøye meg med å klype henne kraftig når vi ble alene.
Fra forfatterens etterord: Om de fant det pornografisk eller ikke, interesserer meg ikke. Når de ikke ville anta boken, skyldtes det ikke min behandling av emnet, men emnet selv; for det er minst tre emner som er absolutt tabu hva flertallet av amerikanske forleggere angår. De to andre er: et neger-hvit-ekteskap som er en fullstendig og strålende suksess med tallrike barn og barnebarn, samt den absolutte ateist som lever et lykkelig og nyttig liv og sover seg inn i døden hunde og seks år gammel.
He did not use a fountain pen which fact, as any psycho-analyst will tell you, meant that the patient was a repressed undinist.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine Lolita with The Annotated Lolita.
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English (4)

Book description
Awe and exhilaration - along with heartbreak and mordant wit - abound in Lotlita, Vladimir Nabokov’s most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert’s obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hyper civilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love-love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.
Haiku summary
Not a love story
Road trip for slick pedophiles
Genius writing, though.
(citygirl)
Pedophile's urge in
Sexist culture of U.S.
Each kills the spirit!
(Sinetrig)
Lubricious nymphets
And exuberant wordplay.
Now who's this Quilty?

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679723161, Paperback)

Despite its lascivious reputation, the pleasures of Lolita are as much intellectual as erogenous. It is a love story with the power to raise both chuckles and eyebrows. Humbert Humbert is a European intellectual adrift in America, haunted by memories of a lost adolescent love. When he meets his ideal nymphet in the shape of 12-year-old Dolores Haze, he constructs an elaborate plot to seduce her, but first he must get rid of her mother. In spite of his diabolical wit, reality proves to be more slippery than Humbert's feverish fantasies, and Lolita refuses to conform to his image of the perfect lover.

Playfully perverse in form as well as content, riddled with puns and literary allusions, Nabokov's 1955 novel is a hymn to the Russian-born author's delight in his adopted language. Indeed, readers who want to probe all of its allusive nooks and crannies will need to consult the annotated edition. Lolita is undoubtedly, brazenly erotic, but the eroticism springs less from the "frail honey-hued shoulders ... the silky supple bare back" of little Lo than it does from the wantonly gorgeous prose that Humbert uses to recount his forbidden passion:

She was musical and apple-sweet ... Lola the bobby-soxer, devouring her immemorial fruit, singing through its juice ... and every movement she made, every shuffle and ripple, helped me to conceal and to improve the secret system of tactile correspondence between beast and beauty--between my gagged, bursting beast and the beauty of her dimpled body in its innocent cotton frock.
Much has been made of Lolita as metaphor, perhaps because the love affair at its heart is so troubling. Humbert represents the formal, educated Old World of Europe, while Lolita is America: ripening, beautiful, but not too bright and a little vulgar. Nabokov delights in exploring the intercourse between these cultures, and the passages where Humbert describes the suburbs and strip malls and motels of postwar America are filled with both attraction and repulsion, "those restaurants where the holy spirit of Huncan Dines had descended upon the cute paper napkins and cottage-cheese-crested salads." Yet however tempting the novel's symbolism may be, its chief delight--and power--lies in the character of Humbert Humbert. He, at least as he tells it, is no seedy skulker, no twisted destroyer of innocence. Instead, Nabokov's celebrated mouthpiece is erudite and witty, even at his most depraved. Humbert can't help it--linguistic jouissance is as important to him as the satisfaction of his arrested libido. --Simon Leake

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:34 -0400)

(see all 12 descriptions)

The most controversial classic novel of the 20th century, Lolita tells the story of Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged man who is aroused to erotic desire only by a young girl. Awe and exhilaration--along with heartbreak and mordant wit--abound in Lolita, Nabokov's most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert's obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love--love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 15 descriptions

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