Whoops, sorry about my book review hiatus. Exams and other personal stuff managed to get in the way and I haven’t really been all that focused on reading recently. I am back into it, however, and have for you today, a review of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. This has probably been the most evocative book I have read this year and I really recommend that everybody read it.
The only thing I would say is that you should prepare to feel very conflicted while reading this book. Nabakov writes in such a way that the story does not revolve around paedophilia, rather around a very damaged man who cannot but be drawn to a young girl. You kind of forget that this girl is sexually exploited at times, which makes you feel utterly vile any time you get a reminder of this awful fact. You feel even more vile when you realise how easy it is to be forgiving towards Humbert. You genuinely believe that he is in love with Lolita and cannot but do the things he does. It is really difficult to come to terms with the fact that the protagonist of the novel also happens to be the villain. I felt so uncomfortable about the fact that I sympathised, even empathised, with Humbert. The character was written with so much wit, charm and emotion that at times his acts don’t even seem all that revolting.
There is never any explicit description of Lolita and Humbert’s relationship. It is referred to with rather soft language. This heightens the impact on the reader when Humbert recalls Lolita crying or acknowledges how he effectively stole her childhood from her.
Humbert’s pain is alluded to frequently throughout the book. I feel like he is one of the best-written characters I have read. He has a conscience, he feels guilt and anguish and he is gut-wrenchingly in love. You really have to read the book to understand the depth of his character; I couldn’t possibly articulate everything that I would like to vis a vis Humbert.
Another thing I wanted to mention is the language in the book. It is exquisitely written. The language itself is melodious and beautiful at times, but grotesque, mundane and tragic at other times. Equally, the witty quips in the book are so nuanced, I am sure I didn’t even pick up on half of them. This is all the more impressive when you take into account that English wasn’t even Nabokov’s first language.
All in all, read this book so long as you are prepared to feel disturbed, disgusted but sympathetic all at the same time. 10/10. Lolita is a total must read.