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Lolita (1955)

by Vladimir Nabokov

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
28,89551680 (4.09)1 / 1141
(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)When it was published in 1955, "Lolita" immediately became a cause célèbre 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.With an Introduction by Martin Amis "From the Hardcover edition."… (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 Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Another villain made sympathetic by a talented author.
  3. 40
    The Lover by Marguerite Duras (roby72)
  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 People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara (pterodactling)
  11. 00
    The Death of David Debrizzi by Paul Micou (KayCliff)
  12. 00
    My Heavenly Favourite by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (tmrps)
    tmrps: Both stories about older men who fall in love with young girls.
  13. 00
    The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (mcenroeucsb)
  14. 00
    The North China Lover by Marguerite Duras (edwinbcn)
    edwinbcn: Another story of a man with a passion for a young girl.
  15. 01
    Eve by James Hadley Chase (caflores)
  16. 01
    A Cruel God Reigns, Volume 1 by Moto Hagio (Anonymous user)
  17. 01
    A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce (kara.shamy)
  18. 01
    The Devil in the Flesh by Raymond Radiguet (SnootyBaronet)
  19. 01
    The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker (suniru)
  20. 02
    The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes (kara.shamy)

(see all 23 recommendations)

1950s (15)
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» See also 1141 mentions

English (479)  Spanish (11)  Dutch (7)  Italian (6)  French (4)  Portuguese (Brazil) (3)  Portuguese (Portugal) (2)  Hebrew (1)  Danish (1)  Portuguese (1)  German (1)  Finnish (1)  Hungarian (1)  All languages (518)
Showing 1-5 of 479 (next | show all)
2.5 stars

Too pretentious for me. ( )
  tonimeter | May 13, 2022 |
One of the most controversial books of the western canon, Lolita tells the story of an obsessive predator who strategically marries the mother of his intended victim and then travels around the United States raping the child who was entrusted to his care. The horror of the text is juxtaposed to its literary beauty and the buffoonish affect of the narrator, Humbert Humbert. Humbert is not some black hearted monster, he seems frightfully normal most of the time. He's witty. He's educated. He's charming. This book decimates the fantasy of the bestial abuser, hiding in the buses, waiting to burst out and attack his target. Sexual abuse is typically far more nefarious than this - it is often reasoned, calculated, and leaves few outward signs of its occurrence.

The book is beautiful and troubling. The prose is lyrical in style but revolting in content. This is a challenging book which will be received differently by those with different experiences of abuse. I read this for the first time in college, and despite the fact that I was taking a class on it, I don't think I fully grasped its significance. Although rereading it, I found I recalled so many passages with blistering detail. It's disturbing, and that's probably the point. ( )
  Juva | Mar 28, 2022 |
strange to say the least. didnt really care for it ( )
  roseandisabella | Mar 18, 2022 |
Lolita is one of the greatest masterpieces of the last century. It is hard to explain why. It is a book about the perverted quest of the perverted Humbert Humbert for the love and lust of a young girl: 'Lolita'.

What does it make an essential book? For me, the first part of the book is great, because the longing tension drags you page to page, onwards to the end of the book. Humbert meets Lolita, the daughter of the woman from whom he rents a room. He longs for her, he craves for her body. He uses all his dirty trick to try and get to her. Even though it is wrong, even though it is perverted, this sensation is so well-written that you can really get into the feelings of this old dirty guy. You can understand his longing within the frame of this book, but when you start thinking about what is really happening, it makes you sick. This is the paradox: you get sucked into the world of pedophilia, and within these covers it all seems kind of okay, but in the outside world, the world that exists outside of these pages, it is just a story about perversion.

The second part, in which Humbert is with Lolita is much more of a homage to America. To the people of America, to the enviroment of the States. A long travel begins, and in the most beautiful words, America is described. In this part, Nabokov develops himself as a true 'Mulisch', one of the best Dutch writers. He refers to the great arts in the world and every sentence is a piece of art. Not one sentence is a sentence too much, and this truly is an accomplishment, seeing how long the story is.

The dramatic ending is the crown to the masterpiece, and goes into the grotesque. Humbert is a burned-up man, at the end of his powers. The whirlpool, the speed of the story slows down, just like his car in the very last sentences.

The only downside of the story is that not every part 'goes somewhere'. A lot of details are added, just for the sake of it. This slows down the pace a bit sometimes, and the story dwells away from the core. Even though in this part too every sentence is art too. This is my only criticism on this story.

The whole story reminded me of a Hitchcock movie: the meaningful details, the paranoia, the American atmosphere. And therefore I recommend this book to anyone who loves tension in literature. ( )
1 vote Boreque | Feb 7, 2022 |
that all is permitted to the gaze. that one can understand everything if one wills it. that's it's worth it, to understand. that not all desires can be satisfied but they can be understood. ( )
1 vote | AnnKlefstad | Feb 4, 2022 |
Showing 1-5 of 479 (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
Mella, Giulia ArborioTranslatorsecondary 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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Epigraph
Dedication
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.
Last words
(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)

(Book Jacket Status: Jacketed)When it was published in 1955, "Lolita" immediately became a cause célèbre 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.With an Introduction by Martin Amis "From the Hardcover edition."

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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.
(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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