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Lolita (1955)

by Vladimir Nabokov

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
26,83347177 (4.1)1 / 1087
When it was published in 1955, Lolita immediately became a cause celebre because of the freedom and sophistication with which it handled the unusual erotic predilections of its protagonist. But Vladimir Nabokov's wise, ironic, elegant masterpiece owes its stature as one of the twentieth century's novels of record not to the controversy its material aroused but to its author's use of that material to tell a love story almost shocking in its beauty and tenderness. Awe and exhilaration--along with heartbreak and mordant wit--abound in this account 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, but most of all, it is a meditation on love--love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.… (more)
  1. 51
    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.
  2. 40
    The Lover by Marguerite Duras (roby72)
  3. 30
    The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Another villain made sympathetic by a talented author.
  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. 20
    The Captive by Marcel Proust (caflores)
  6. 21
    Taming the Beast by Emily Maguire (infiniteletters)
  7. 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?
  8. 10
    The Pornographer of Vienna by Lewis Crofts (heidijane)
  9. 00
    His Monkey Wife by John Collier (SnootyBaronet)
    SnootyBaronet: Euphuistic narratives of forbidden love
  10. 00
    The Death of David Debrizzi by Paul Micou (KayCliff)
  11. 00
    The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (mcenroeucsb)
  12. 00
    The North China Lover by Marguerite Duras (edwinbcn)
    edwinbcn: Another story of a man with a passion for a young girl.
  13. 01
    Eve by James Hadley Chase (caflores)
  14. 01
    The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker (suniru)
  15. 01
    The Devil in the Flesh by Raymond Radiguet (SnootyBaronet)
  16. 01
    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (kara.shamy)
  17. 02
    The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (kara.shamy)
  18. 03
    Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (kara.shamy)
  19. 04
    Hamlet by William Shakespeare (kara.shamy)
  20. 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)

(see all 20 recommendations)

1950s (33)
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English (436)  Spanish (9)  Dutch (7)  Italian (6)  French (4)  Portuguese (Brazil) (2)  Portuguese (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  German (1)  Danish (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (469)
Showing 1-5 of 436 (next | show all)
I can understand why a lot of people think highly of this book, since the writing is very evocative and there's a certain courage required of an author to delve this deeply into the psyche of such and unsympathetic main character. I admired the book up to the point where Lolita herself is introduced. Then, the book suffered from some really hard to swallow lucky breaks that were necessary to take the plot to where Nabokov wanted it to go. First, it's not Humbert's idea to marry Lolita's mother in order to get closer to the girl, the mother instead throws herself at him and insists on marriage. Then, when the mother learns that Humbert is a pedophile, she runs across the street to mail a letter exposing him and is immediately run over by a car and killed. Then, when he goes to pick up Lolita with the scheme of kidnapping her and seducing her, she turns out to already be sexually active and makes the first move to seduce him (though this could be spin on the part of an unreliable narrator). One or two lucky breaks for the protagonist are acceptable, but several back to back started to make it feel like Nabokov was just eager to get to the creepiest parts of the book and was taking plot short cuts to get there.

Then, at the point where the tension of the book should be the highest, the book turns into a travelogue, with long lists and short descriptions of all the places they visit and stay as they move around the country. It's like sitting through someone's vacation slideshow.

Again, I think that, plucking out any given passage from the book, I'd have to admit that it's powerful writing. It was just as a whole that it fell apart for me. ( )
  James_Maxey | Jun 29, 2020 |
What can I say, when Marilyn Monroe has already said it all.

  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
What can I say, when Marilyn Monroe has already said it all.

  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Ugh so beautiful. And disturbing. But beautiful! ( )
  piquareste | Jun 3, 2020 |
I'm probably going to say what a million readers have already said about this book: "Its language is entrancing and gorgeous."

It's got to be one of the most imminently quotable of all books, but what I think is most notable is its subtle commentary skewering the society we all know. The satire feels entirely unintentional and incidental against Humbert's machinations and obsessions with little girls and his special nymphette.

I was initially thrilled by Nabokov's facility by language and horrified by the subject, and that didn't really change for most of the book, but then something else started happening to my brain. The mutual seduction of a twelve-year old girl had suddenly moved beyond my outrage to a dumbstruck and almost clinical detachment, watching the tumultuous living arrangements of this father and his step-daughter as they traveled around the country and briefly attempted to settle down in a quiet town instead of hopping the border, watching it degenerate as the pressure of a confused and immature girl learns to play all the strings of Humbert's bow, and he lets her because he is ultimately so damn weak and drunk on possessiveness and mindless jealous rages, never once seeing the little girl for who she was or truly acknowledging that she was desperately unhappy despite moments of returned passion littered with her despoiled self-worth.

From Lolita's story, it was more than just the end of innocence. It was the indoctrination of a woman by the sick standards of all men, turning her into nothing but a whore turning tricks in order to survive. Humbert was trapped by his own desires, sure, and blind to anything but his own passions, but he only barely recognized what he was truly doing to her. No matter how many movies or plush hotels they frequented, no matter how many gifts he gave, he never understood that true understanding might have been the real key to her heart. (And I say this, regardless of the sickening subject of child molestation. It is only one side, and a truly sensational one in the horrific sense, but Nabokov's genius lay in telling equally important tales within this singular novel that transcended the hook.)

I truly believe that this story does an excellent job of pointing out exactly how perverse our world is, that we can accept such a mode of thinking as perfectly normal in such lesser doses, that the need to possess something or someone so uniquely and rapturously, can be easily carried to further extremes, such as carrying the rule of law, the continued subjugation of women, or even men by their own stunted ability to think or break free of all the things they understand to be right and just in a society so damn sick in its heart that I just want to cry and cry and cry.

Okay. This was a pretty effective novel on many more levels, but this is what I'm leaving this review on. ( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 436 (next | show all)
Haven’t we been conditioned to feel that Lolita is sui generis, a black sheep, a bit of tasteful, indeed ‘beautiful’ erotica, and that Nabokov himself, with this particular novel, somehow got ‘carried away’? Great writers, however, never get carried away. Even pretty average writers never get carried away. People who write one novel and then go back to journalism or accountancy (‘Louder, bitch!’) – they get carried away. Lolita is more austere than rapturous, as all writing is; and I have come to see it, with increasing awe, as exactly the kind of novel that its predecessors are pointing towards...

At one point, comparing himself to Joyce, Nabokov said: ‘my English is patball to [his] champion game’. At another, he tabulated the rambling rumbles of Don Quixote as a tennis match (the Don taking it in four hard sets). And we all remember Lolita on the court, her form ‘excellent to superb’, according to her schoolmistress, but her grace ‘so sterile’, according to Humbert, ‘that she could not even win from panting me and my old fashioned lifting drive’. Now, although of course Joyce and Nabokov never met in competition, it seems to me that Nabokov was the more ‘complete’ player. Joyce appeared to be cruising about on all surfaces at once, and maddeningly indulged his trick shots on high-pressure points – his drop smash, his sidespun half-volley lob. Nabokov just went out there and did the business, all litheness, power and touch. Losing early in the French (say), Joyce would be off playing exhibitions in Casablanca with various arthritic legends, and working on his inside-out between-the-legs forehand dink; whereas Nabokov and his entourage would quit the rusty dust of Roland Garros for somewhere like Hull or Nailsea, to prepare for Wimbledon on our spurned and sodden grass.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Atlantic, Martin Amis
The development of this emigre’s euphuism is a likely consequence of Nabokov’s having had to abandon his natural idiom, as he puts it, his ‘untrammelled, rich and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English, devoid of any of those apparatuses —the baffling mirror, the black velvet backdrop, the implied associations and traditions—which the native illusionist, fractails flying, can magically use to transcend the heritage in his own way.’ This, which enacts the problem with characteristic tricksy indirection, also implies its solution as the laborious confection of equivalent apparatuses in the adoptive language: the whole farrago of imagery, archaism, etc., which cannot strike even the most finely tuned foreign ear as it strikes that of the native English-speaker. The end product sadly invokes a Charles Atlas muscle-man of language as opposed to the healthy and useful adult...

There comes a point where the atrophy of moral sense, evident throughout this book, finally leads to dullness, fatuity and unreality. Humbert’s ‘love’ for Lolita is a matter of the senses, even of the membranes; his moments of remorse are few, brief and unconvincing; it never really occurs to him to ask himself just what the hell he thinks he is up to. There is plenty of self-absorption around us, heaven knows, but not enough on this scale to be worth writing about at length, just as the mad are much less interesting than the sane.
added by SnootyBaronet | editThe Spectator, Kingsley Amis
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

» Add other authors (45 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nabokov, Vladimirprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Amis, MartinIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Arborio Mella, GiuliaTranslatorsecondary 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
Raine, CraigAfterwordsecondary 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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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.
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.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Please do not combine Lolita with The Annotated Lolita.
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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.
Pedophile's urge in
Sexist culture of U.S.
Each kills the spirit!
Lubricious nymphets
And exuberant wordplay.
Now who's this Quilty?

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Penguin Australia

6 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 014102349X, 0141037431, 0141193670, 024195164X, 0241953243, 0141197013

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