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The Annotated Lolita

by Vladimir Nabokov, Alfred Appel (Editor), Vladimir Nabokov

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2,198436,141 (4.49)12
Presents the degeneration which results from a middle-aged professor's desperate obsession with a precocious, callous teenager whose mother he marries just to be near the young girl.

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» See also 12 mentions

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I suppose it is a good novel about the ability to deceive oneself, but it is hard to push through a novel with few sympathetic characters. One feels sorry for Delores, orphaned and left to the care of the pedophile Humbert. But we are forced to see her through his eyes, which distracts us from whatever her true character might me. Humbert is a creep. The narration at least assures the reader that he will be punished, but we learn that he is not punished for the rape of Delores, but for killing another pedophile. Justice or not? Too much time in the mind of someone one wouldn't want to know.
  ritaer | Dec 20, 2021 |
Finding myself lost in the stunning beauty of Nabokov's prose, I would periodically come to and realize that I was savoring words describing utter depravity. In those moments, I would briefly share something of the self-loathing one would think, would hope, Humbert would feel. The elegant language effectively served to magnify the degenerate nature of the protagonist.

After reading the negative reviews, I see that many just cannot understand how a person could want to read something in which such terrible things happen regardless of how beautifully done the book is. I shall endeavor to explain.

I don't read books only to feel good. There is some of that of course, but I also read books to learn. In particular to learn what it is like to experience ... well, to experience not being me. The less like me the better. Books that let me crawl inside other minds are fantastic. They broaden my perspective. They make me a better person by giving me a greater understanding.

One might wonder why the fuck I would want to understand a pedophile. The Art of War says "If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle." In The Racist Mind: Portraits of American Neo-Nazis and Klansmen, Raphael S. Ezekiel speaks of the necessity of understanding a person's perspective if you want to initiate change.

Most true change to society begins with art not politics, because art, when we let it, gifts us with perspective. Perspective empowers us with empathy. Many think of empathy merely as a type of kindness. While it can lead to kindness, its true importance is as a tool of understanding. Only through understanding can anything be changed. Law and punishment serve primarily to make society feel as if we've done something, as though we have created justice. Understanding, however, leads to prevention. ( )
1 vote Zoes_Human | Jul 31, 2021 |
So how do you rate a book that so effectively explores the mind of a pervert? And how do you justify admitting that you think it is a great book?
Admittedly, it's about a relationship that the protagonist in a moment of lucidity admits robbed a child of her childhood. But it's also about the vast landscape of the US in the first post-war years seen through the eyes of an observer experiencing it for the first time, everything from awesome natural beauty to the seedy succession of motor courts. Perhaps this is what makes the book feel creepy at the same time that it reads like great literature: in this experience of America, we sense the voice and reactions of Nabokov the author behind the words of the protagonist. So how can we be sure that the protagonist's taste in sexuality -- something he clearly expects us to disapprove us, despite the repeated allusions to practices in antiquity or to Poe's Annabel Lee -- doesn't in some way have a nod of approval from the author? Nabokov of course denied it, and handles the matter with the refined sensibility of an aesthete (the depiction of Dolores/Lolita on the tennis court is more erotic than the account of the first sex between Humbert Humbert and his step-daughter).
In addition to being about hopeless, self-destructive attraction to a nymphet and omnivorous depictions of America in its grandeur and grit, it is also literature about literature. It feels as Nabokov never forgot a book he admired, and weaves his text into the larger fabric.
So yes, I think it's a great book.
A note on the edition: I bought the annotated edition because I had heard of the author's penchant for obscure literary allusions and multi-lingual puns. Dutiful as I am, I read the lengthy, erudite introduction first, then tackled the novel, looking up every annotation. I gave this up after a few pages, though, and my enjoyment soared. Still glad the notes are there. When it comes time to reread the book, I think I'll read all the annotations first, then the book. But I don't recommend doing this the first time through, though. Just settle in, enjoy the book, and don't worry what obscure reference you might be missing. ( )
  HenrySt123 | Jul 19, 2021 |
Adult lit. Way different this time than the first time I read it (perhaps I never finished it the first time?). ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
It took me years to get the courage to read this book. It really is a masterpiece. The writing is phenomenal and the story psychologically interesting, when you consider the difference between narrator and author.
Not porn or perverted as a story, though it deals with both. Worth its status in the literary canon! ( )
  LDVoorberg | Nov 22, 2020 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nabokov, VladimirAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Appel, AlfredEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Nabokov, Vladimirmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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Please do not combine The Annotated Lolita with Lolita.
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Presents the degeneration which results from a middle-aged professor's desperate obsession with a precocious, callous teenager whose mother he marries just to be near the young girl.

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Average: (4.49)
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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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