Lolita – Vladimir Nobokov
I will never think of 12 year old girls the same way again. Nymphs. Nymphettes. Nymphomania. Humbert Humbert is obsessed with nymphettes. particularly, with the idea of procreating with a certain pet of his and you never have to wonder why. He explains the motive in great detail. It is a very pure, raw, unapologetic, beautiful, sexy, titillating, perverse, dark and abstract first person account of an offense and what makes this darker is that, Dolores Haze (Lolita), the victim is a consenting accomplice.
Lolita, who already has lost her virginity to a boy her age does not so much as lose her innocence when they first commit the act. Over time, thru their travels and stays thru The Enchanted Hunter, Elphinstone, Timber hotel, Poplar shades, Lacework Cabins and many other such motels and hotels, he snaps her ties with friends, protective guardians, community and other natural ties and relations which a girl of her age might have and goes on to gradually break her, still explaining to the “jury”, his motive at each step.
What makes this even more shocking is, Humbert thinks of himself as a caring, protective parent who wishes Dolores the best in life. About the act of sex itself, there are no pornographic descriptions, lewd references or explicit passages. He even makes an effort to make sure, she does not lose out on exploring her talents as any normal parent would – talents of acting, tennis and such. The word ‘nymph’ occurs a few hundred times in many forms but almost never do you see the word ‘pedophilia’ in the book.
Never had I felt the need to discuss a book midway thru as this one. This book had been sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read for a long time as I knew this was going to be a difficult read. The big question was, should I read something I do not believe in? Would you as an atheist read a deeply religious story? A very well written one, mind you. And yet, I continued reading for, if you read and even enjoy reading world war fiction, that does not really make you an approver, fan and evangelist of world wars. And then, there were many other questions which I will not bore you with.
This book is not an easy one to read and I tried to trick myself into thinking Lolita is a 20 something. Even if she is that, a 20 something, the offenses committed would not be lost, neither would be the brutality and the charm. But, our dear Humbert Humbert would never let you get away with that. He has to mention her little limbs here, a childish giggle there, a slender neck here and her teenage reading everywhere. He speaks of her with an excited animation and his instincts take over when he sees her nymphette behavior and speaks of her with parental warmth otherwise.
English is Vladimir Nobakov’s 3rd Language and that makes the book twice as good. I wonder if it is inspite of it, that the prose is so brilliant or because of it. If you are looking for a un-put-downable book to read with well defined characters, this is most certainly not the one. The characters are abstract, evil, good, cocky, all shades in between and a tad unpredictable. The prose spills from word to word, sentence to sentence and is clever, lucid, abstract, dandy, flamboyant, and even buoyant. You would think and anticipate what he wants you to, for he would have planted a seed of an idea for anticipation without you even noticing. He is the master storyteller. He is the best artist of puppetry and the puppet is your mind – he pulls the strings and makes it move anyway he pleases.