Monday, 1 November 2010
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Synopsis: Humbert Humbert has a preoccupation with "nympets", pre-teenage girls. After marrying her mother and a lot of plotting, he abducts and abuses his step-daughter Lolita. All told from Humbert's perspective.
Score: 4 out of 5
Given the subject matter, this could easily have been a sleazy read, one to make you uncomfortable. But part of Nabokov's talent is that it isn't. He treads a fine line between making Humbert seem human and making his crimes excusable, which must have been tricky.
Although his crimes are at no point glorified or made to seem acceptable, Nabokov slowly makes you relate to Humbert so that in the end, you catch yourself feeling almost sympathetic to him and then feel horrible for it. Humbert's excuses that Lolita was not innocent and that she seduced him go through the whole book and are almost believable until you catch the glimpses of Lolita that the writer allows to slip through whilst Humbert is asleep or unwell - Lolita crying herself to sleep every night, Lolita desperately trying to catch the attention of others and escape.
The book was well written and easy to read. You would never have guessed that Nabokov was not a native English speaker. There are lots of allusions to classics and the language is rich and poetic without being stuffy. The sentences are long and winding, so although I found it easy to read it's one to read slowly rather than rush through.
I did feel that the book lost steam about two thirds of the way in though. I found it hard to keep up with Humbert's paranoia (which took up a lot of lines) and found the part about who helped Lolita finally escape long and a bit tiresome. I did enjoy the ending though, where Lolita was finally able to confront Humbert many years later.
Have you read Lolita?
What did you think?