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Humbert Humbert scholar aesthete and romantic has fallen completely and utterly in love with Lolita Haze his landlady's gum snapping silky skinned twelve year old daughter Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere he will carry her off on a desperate cross country misadventure all in the name of Love Hilarious flamboyant heart breaking and full of ingenious word play Lolita is an immaculate unforgettable masterpiece of obsession delusion and lust


10 thoughts on “Lolita

  1. 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Cy2kSXsmhyCh*D  DAEɆHGG I K ?°L䋷]9Z)$'4)gdm# onU8| *c((*U,7U6;!fW\آE|DZx1]gw8NezjMa,mMVZl8#3AMvY쀦vY&CtyY8=@xR6A+a (h0jU"ʫ/\3W ш}4h*(%.)8nIqTMa" class="avatar avatar-100 photo amp-wp-enforced-sizes" height="100" width="100" layout="intrinsic"> says:

    Between the CoversAfter re reading Lolita I asked my local bookseller if she'd ever read itShe replied firmly “Noand I’m not going to either He’s a paedophile”A bit taken aback I enquired further “Who? The author or the character?”Fortunately she replied “The character”For me this exchange showed how much “Lolita” can still sharply divide opinion even within lovers of fictionThis wasn’t the conversation I had been hoping forI had read “Lolita” in a couple of days less time than my work commitments normally allow me but I found it incredibly easy to readEven though I was taking notes even though I was conscious that Nabokov was playing games even if I didn’t always know what game even though there were unfamiliar words I should have looked up I was constantly drawn towards the conclusionI wanted to talk to someone about my experience straight awayMy cheeks were still flushed my nerve endings were still tingling I had experienced the “spine thrill of delight” I felt like I had just had sex with a bookNow not being a smoker all I needed was some post coital conversationAnd there was no one around to converse withAnd the book wasn’t giving away any of its secrets than it already hadNor was it going to tell me I had been a Good Reader or that it had appreciated my attentivenessIt was back between the covers challenging me to start againThree Act Word PlayAt a superficial level “Lolita” is a relatively straight forward novelOnce you know that it concerns sexual relations between 37 year old Humbert Humbert and 12 year old Dolores “Lolita” Hayes you just about know the plotThere’s a beginning a middle and an endA grooming a consummation an aftermathNabokov makes of his material a three act playAnd he does so playfully seductively lyrically charmingly amusingly dangerouslyTo this day I cannot look at Humbert’s initials “HH” without pronouncing them in German “Ha Ha” and wondering whether the joke is on usBeneath the skin of the novel there is much There is a whole complex living organismYou can lose yourself within its arms for days weeks months a lifetimeAs long as your love of wordplay your love of words and play will permit youAgain at a superficial level there is an almighty conflict between morality and aesthetics happening between the pagesWhether or not Nabokov deliberately put the conflict there he put the subject matter thereWe the readers can supply our own conflict in the way we read his novelNabokov knew the subject matter would inflame us if not our desires then at least our morals our sense of righteousnessMorality and aesthetics are intertwined within the fabric of the novelThey embrace each other in one long death roll just like Humbert Humbert and Clare QuiltyWe watch their interaction open mouthed open minded but ultimately they have to be pulled apart or separatedWhen they are together they are oneWhen they are apart they are each other’s doubleThe Morality of the StoryThere is no doubt that sexual relations between an adult and a minor are not just immoral but criminal as wellThat is an unquestionable factFrom a legal point of view the motive of the adult is irrelevant to the proof of the crimeThe consent of the minor is irrelevant to the proof of the crimeIf Humbert had been charged with an offence of sexual relations with a minor he would have had no legal defenceAny question as to whether Lolita really seduced Humbert would have been irrelevantIn fact the evidence might not even have been admissible except potentially as part of the determination of the penaltyIn other words even if it was relevant to penalty it was not relevant to guiltBecause morality is a social construct that depends on collective endorsement he had no moral defence eitherThe personal views of the individual are not really that relevant to society’s determination that an act is immoralThe choice of the individual is to comply or offendOf Traps and CagesHumbert offended not just once but untold numerous times over two yearsHe carefully planned his seduction he set his trap he caught his prey even if someone might want to argue that this 12 year old seductress walked voluntarily into the trapHaving freed Lolita from the trap he imprisoned her in a cage and repeated his crimeAgain someone could argue that she had plenty of opportunities to flee the cage which she eventually didBut Humbert surrounded Lolita with an elaborate system of self doubt that convinced her that she would become a ward of the state if they were found outThe Legality of the Confession“Lolita” is written from Humbert’s point of viewIt is not just a recollection in his mind it is a formal written documentHe sat down and wrote it in 56 days between his capture in 1952 charged only with the crime of murdering Clare Quilty and his death in prison before his trial could occurFor me the written document is a fascinating choice of literary device to tell the storyThe document becomes a book within a bookWhile Nabokov obviously wrote it all that he purports to do is sandwich it between a Foreword and a much later AfterwordThis device sets up an interesting relationship between Humbert and the readerFor Humbert it is akin to a confession or a witness statementTo this extent what he confesses to is clearly enough to convict him of the crime of murderHowever in it he also sets out details of crimes that for whatever reason he was never charged withIf his lawyer had read the document while he was still alive he would probably have excised all of the other confessions because they would have prejudiced his client’s case at least with respect to penaltyThe Role of the JuryFor the reader the confession defines our relationship to the events that are describedWe are cast in the role of a member of the JuryThis device allows heinous moral and criminal acts to be described and read and examined within a legal and therefore legitimate frameworkIn a sense the book becomes a report of sorts on legal proceedingsWe become legitimate observers and listeners to something that might otherwise have been prurient and offensive and illegalYet we have to do our duty and participate in the legal process because it is an important part of the justice systemEven though we have a legitimate interest in participating I wonder whether we are still voyeuristicNabokov has trapped us in a game that persuades us that it is serious but ends up being just as playful and perverse as the subject matter of the crimeIn a way Nabokov makes us complicit in a crime if not Humbert’s crime then perhaps our own thought crimeIt is also material that by the time Humbert’s confession is read both Humbert and Lolita have died of natural causesHumbert speaks from the other side of deathNobody is alive nobody can be hurt any than they already haveThe Confessions of an Unreliable Narrator The Fox and the PeacockI explored these issues because I wanted to understand Humbert’s motivation for his confessionHe is effectively pleading guiltyI don’t see any prospect for an insanity defence even though he seemed to have been in and out of sanatoria at times of crisisEqually I don’t think that anything he reveals would reduce the penalty for the murderTo do so he only needed to focus on his concern that Quilty had wronged Lolita in some way even worse than his own actionsBut to confess all of these other crimes seems to be counter productiveSimilarly I don’t think he was lying about the detail I think that he was telling the truth and that he was telling the truth so that he could be understood no no lessHumbert’s confession is not just the fiction of a dirty old man it is not false or fabricated it is not a mirageNo matter how immoral no matter how deluded no matter how selfish and narcissistic it is his fact his reality his truth his burden his shameHis actions were the pursuit of a rational man not an insane oneHe was film star handsome educated intellectual talented witty charming calculating calculated dangerousThere is no doubt that he was a talented performer an exceptional playerHowever Humbert is not an actor wearing a mask performing some other fictional character or version of himselfI believe that we are seeing him for what he really isHe is as cunning tricky sly as a fox and as refined elaborate attractive as a peacockHis decoration his ornamentation is part of him his life his loins his sin his soulIn pursuit of Lolita he was prepared to lie and deceive in order to achieve his goalI don’t believe that he was prepared to lie to us if only because there was no point in lyingWhen occasionally he questions the veracity of his own account it is solely to question the accuracy of his memoryHowever he didn’t need to tell lies to achieve leniency he didn’t need to tell the truth for some ulterior motiveBy confessing to anything he would only be found guilty of crimes he hadn’t been charged with in addition to the charge of murder he had been accused ofThere was no point in confessing to anything extra other than to tell the truth as he saw itIt wasn’t going to get him any sympathy or reduce his penalty if anything his disclosures would aggravate his penaltyTo this extent I don’t consider Humbert an “unreliable narrator”I realise that some might respond that paedophiles are habitual liars and can’t help themselvesThat might well be the case but I think it is our horror at his crime our moral judgment affecting our assessment of the whole of the person and shaping our aesthetic response to the book and the characterPerhaps naively I want to find some good in himUltimately whether or not Humbert’s love was morally wrong I believe that he wanted us to understand his love and what he learned about his love by the end of his story What We Talk about When We Talk about Humbert’s LoveTechnically the sexual relations between Humbert and Lolita are not an example of “paedophilia” which is a sexual preference for a pre pubescentWhile nothing moral or legal turns on the distinction the sexual relations constitute “hebephilia” which is a sexual preference for a person in the early stage of pubertyThe name derives from “Hebe” the Greek goddess of youthHer name means youth or prime of life and she personified both youth and immortalityShe was the cup bearer who served nectar to the Olympian Gods to give them everlasting youthFirst Part Obsessive LoveFor me during the first part of the book Humbert’s love was forbidden but genuineIt was a transgressive love in that it was a love of the particular aesthetic form that youth takes between the ages of ten and fifteenThe body is at its most perfect it has not started to age to wrinkle to fill out to droop to deteriorateAfter that age the body starts to age and he finds that physically unattractive as in the case of his first wife and Lolita's motherOK we all make choices about our love objectsHow can we account for our choices?There’s no accounting for loveStill at the heart of this aesthetic approach to love is a fear or disgust at aging and mortalityThere is an unreality a lack of understanding and acceptance of the cycle of life and death a Peter Pan desire to stay forever young forever immortalI also think there is a self love or narcissism inherent in this aesthetic viewI love the young because I love the perfect form of my own youthSince my youth I have fallen morally and physicallyI therefore have to preserve the visage of my own youthI wonder whether it is only possible to have this view if you have never had your own biological childParenthood is an education in the reality of agingIt is an illusion to believe that you can live and defeat itBut tell that to the cosmetics industrySo far I have talked of love in the abstractIn the first part of the book I struggled to understand Humbert’s love and the above is what I came up withI won’t say I had a sympathy for him but I think I understood him and his loveI even understood his obsessivenessHow many of us during the first throes of love trap and oppress our love object so much so that we are not able to see how oppressive we were until after the relationship has been consummated or morphed into something mature or ended?However things started to change at the end of the first part the consummation and into the second part the imprisonmentOf course the love had to be consummated but as unexceptional as the description of the event was it highlighted the reality that the first part was a trap for Lolita to walk intoAs playful and lyrical as the language might have been it was sinister in intentSecond Part Captivating LoveDuring the second part having captured Lo Humbert makes it clear that his love will last no than three years to be precise 1 January 1947 to 1 January 1950 which are effectively her 12th to 15th birthdaysAfter this statistically at least Lo will morph out of her nymphet formSo Humbert's love is solely for a definitive phase of her entire life after which he expects and intends to abandon herDuring this phase Humbert’s goal is to maintain Lolita in captivity to ensure her availability for him alone There is no fairy tale promise of “happily ever after” or “’til death do us part” in this love actionThere is no love or concern for the other only selfishness and narcissismI have tried to view the definition of beauty that appeals to Humbert as an aesthetic issueI have tried to divorce it from morality so I can understand it betterHowever whether I think of it in terms of aesthetics or morality obsession or love the fact that it could be switched on and off at such identifiable times turned me against HumbertHe is in control of this feeling called love at least he knows with clinical precision when he will return to “normality” or a state of not lovingHis love was a drug that he took too knowingly he knew precisely when the feeling of the drug would wear offSo I started to believe that there was no loss of self in his loveInstead it was a heightened or gross act of narcissismBy extension there was no sense in which he tried to satisfy Lo personally or sexuallyThere was no sense of a mutually satisfying relationship or intercourse although to be fair he doesn't go into the sexual detail except in terms of physical exertionHowever I got the sense that when it came to consummating his love it was just about sticking his dick into his love objectOK lots of sexual relationships can be reduced to this fundamental penetrative actSome men see femaleness as no than a receptacle for maleness and its fluid manifestation the cup into which they spill their seedHowever I started to feel in the second part that Humbert's aim was to defile or despoil the beauty that had appealed to him in the first part even if it was transgressiveAnd the three year zone of enchantment highlighted to me that Humbert would just go in search of the next beautiful nymphet to stick his dick intoSo it became increasingly apparent to me that he was a serial despoiler of beauty not a genuine lover or admirer of beautyThere is a hatred or disgust hotwired into this loveYou don't normally hate the flowers in your vase when it comes time to remove them and throw them in the dustbinBut you get the sense that Humbert would have been disgusted by his former love objects his objet d'obsession the moment that calendar clicked overObviously this same disgust or loss of interest appears in traditional relationshipsIt could lie behind the mid life crisis when the guy runs away with the younger womanIt could explain the inability to accept the inevitability of aging at least in our partnerIt could explain we males who still picture ourselves as the immutable 20 year old who deserves a young and nubile partner no matter how soft or old or fat or ugly we have becomeSo Humbert’s love can teach the rest of us something about our own loveLast Part Adult Love DeniedI wrote most of my comments about the second part before I had finished reading the last part of the novelI have to emphasise that most of what turned me against Humbert came from my reaction to his own wordsNeither he nor Nabokov held back the material that would make me hate himStill I read on firmly in their constrictive embrace until chapter 29 when Humbert and the seventeen year old married and pregnant Dolores meet againWhat you think of Humbert and his love whether or not you think he is lying depends on your interpretation of the confessions in this chapter “there she was with her ruined looks and her adult rope veined narrow hands and her gooseflesh white arms and her shallow ears and her unkempt armpits there she was my Lolita hopelessly worn at seventeen with that baby and I looked and I looked at her and knew as clearly as I know I am to die that I loved her than anything I had ever seen or imagined on earth or hoped for anywhere else“What I used to pamper among the tangled vines of my hearthad dwindled to its essence sterile and selfish vice all that I cancelled and cursed“You may jeer at me and threaten to clear the court but until I am gagged and half throttled I will shout my poor truth“I insist the world know how much I loved my Lolita this Lolita pale and polluted and big with another’s child but still gray eyed still sooty lashed still auburn and almond still Carmencita still mine”This is just one part of Humbert’s journeyHe realised that he still loved her outside the hebephile zoneHowever he still clung to “his” Lolita the Lolita of his deluded version of loveObviously Dolores is and never was “his” version of reality she was her own person and she declines his love a second timeOnly then does he recognise that he “did not know a thing about his darling’s mind” or that “a North American girl child named Dolores Haze had been deprived of her childhood by a maniac”Then he quotes “an old poet” presumably Nabokov himself “The moral sense in mortals is the duty“We have to pay on mortal sense of beauty”In other words you can’t just indulge an aesthetic sense of beauty at the expense of a real human being it comes attached to and constrained by moralityMorality taboo and the law work together to protect innocence and beauty from those who would defile and despoil itHe was not above the law he was no Nietzschian SupermanHe was the fool in his own playThe TragedyThere are suggestions that Nabokov saw Humbert’s story as a tragedy that Humbert only realised that he genuinely loved Dolores by conventional standards when it was too lateThat might be so but Humbert only had himself to blameHe was a victim of his own hand and his tragedy was nothing compared with the one he made Dolores endure so that he too selfishly for love could have his “Lolita”