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Lolita (1955)

by Vladimir Nabokov

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
27,77950077 (4.1)1 / 1108
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)

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Showing 1-5 of 461 (next | show all)
14. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
published: 1955
format: 317-page paperback
acquired: February
read: Apr 11-24
time reading: 14:36, 2.8 mpp
rating: 5
locations: France, New Hampshire, and a lot of unspecified, late 1940's US.
about the author: 1899 – 1977. Russia born, educated at Trinity College in Cambridge, 1922. Lived in Berlin (1922-1937), Paris, the US (1941-1961) and Montreux, Switzerland (1961-1977).

My first thought as I closed this book was discomfort in how difficult it is to read. It requires close attention to fast moving sections, and it's full of vague or obscure language and also a whole lot of French. I did not cooperate and slow down, I just pushed through. And now I'm wondering how much I got and how much I missed.

Humbert Humbert doesn't actually exist, even in fictional form. His story of his taking a pre-teen girl secretly hostage, isolating her on road trips, and repeatedly raping her in various cheep highway motels is told by him and edited to his liking. He makes up his name and all the story details. He writes his own introduction, and gives it a different author. None of what he writes is reliable. Instead there is a story that has been heavily reworked, leaving things uncomfortably open-ended. Nonetheless a story comes out that, and through HH's various trials, it feels like a true story, as if much of what he is telling is actually happened. There is enough here to guess when HH is telling the truth, or lying, and to guess when he is really seeing and understanding things, or is dealing with something he cannot personally understand... at least there is enough to conjecture about all this. HH is not one to make emotional connections, but, like a sociopath, he plays the act, knows how to behave, and can calculate the situation. And it seems he does, ruthlessly. And this creep is trying to win over you, dear reader. Our Lolita, Dolores Haze, name presumably also made up, manages to make her uncertain and pained presence into the reader's head.

It starts out easy to read and kind of funny, like for 100 pages. Then it transforms. Once Humbert Humbert tells us his version of how he gets this young girl, the book goes dark and difficult. It also transcends something, from a plain story to a fascinating and pretty amazing novel. I‘m actually not quite sure what he did. I should add that I have read [The Enchanter], Nabokov's first go at this kind of pedophile story. That novella is funny and then just as it gets dark, the story stalls out right at the point, the point where this novel transforms. It's not clear how the story can be moved forward in either novel. So it was interesting to me to see here how Nabokov handles that. It's masterful. HH comes up with a believable...or almost believable...story of how he overcame Lolita's self-preservation instincts and natural horror of him. I say almost believable because it's all too convenient, and in this novel, that's a flag to the reader to realize HH is doctoring, and that actually something much worse happened.

This is a strange novel for an author's masterpiece, but I think it qualifies. It does things he hasn't accomplished in any of his earlier novels. And it demands a reread.

2021
https://www.librarything.com/topic/330945#7495115 ( )
  dchaikin | May 1, 2021 |
Psychologically astounding. The best use of narrative manipulation I've ever encountered. ( )
  Rachel_Cucinella | Apr 24, 2021 |
What I find most interesting and sinister about this book is Humbert's insistence that he's not really a bad guy. Dang dude. ( )
  althomas39 | Apr 20, 2021 |
1.5* ( )
  courty4189 | Mar 24, 2021 |
Didn't get it until I saw the Kubrick film. The film is better. It's less gross and the absurdity is more palpable also it's less gross. ( )
  .json | Mar 21, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 461 (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 (41 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
Carlsson, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Coutinho, M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Daurella, JosepTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dirda, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hessel, HelenTranslatorsecondary 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
Zimmer, Dieter E.Revisorsecondary 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
He did not use a fountain pen which fact, as any psycho-analyst will tell you, meant that the patient was a repressed undinist.
Then I pulled out my automatic - I mean, this is the kind of fool thing a reader might suppose I did. It never even occurred to me to do it.
My father was a gentle, easy-going person, a salad of racial genes: a Swiss citizen, of mixed French and Austrian descent, with a dash of the Danube in his veins.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
Please do not combine Lolita with The Annotated Lolita.
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Wikipedia in English (4)

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.

No library descriptions found.

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?

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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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