Lolita

“I am like one of those inflated pale spiders you see in old gardens. Sitting in the middle of a luminous web and giving little jerks to this or that strand. My web is spread all over the house as I listen from my chair where I sit like a wily wizard.”

That admission comes directly from the pen of one of the most infamous, unreliable narrators of all time as he puts his memories to paper. I’d say it goes a long way in describing Vladimir Nabokov himself, as well. No, I’m not calling Nabokov a ped

“I am like one of those inflated pale spiders you see in old gardens. Sitting in the middle of a luminous web and giving little jerks to this or that strand. My web is spread all over the house as I listen from my chair where I sit like a wily wizard.”

That admission comes directly from the pen of one of the most infamous, unreliable narrators of all time as he puts his memories to paper. I’d say it goes a long way in describing Vladimir Nabokov himself, as well. No, I’m not calling Nabokov a pedophile or any such perversion of character, but his manipulation of the reader in this text is very much like that same calculating spider. It’s ingenious, really.

I skirted around this novel for years due to my extreme aversion to the subject matter, certain that I would be outraged, nauseous, and ready to throttle any male that even gave my daughter a second glance. But what happened here was not even close to what I anticipated. I felt wooden, unaffected. I went about reading this with a sort of clinical detachment. I can only begin to guess that the behavior of people in the past couple of years has led me to view such debauchery as this as something entirely commonplace. What more do I really expect at this point? I’m no longer surprised by most persons. They often act beyond comprehension, so why wouldn’t a middle aged man take advantage of a pubescent female, whisk her around the country, and scar her for life? Of course, I knew in the back of my mind that this was purely fictional, but entirely possible. Maybe my reaction was my own coping mechanism for handling the reading of this masterpiece.

“You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame permanently aglow in your subtle spine (oh, how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs – the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limb, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate – the little deadly demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power.”

Nabokov adeptly puts the reader directly into the head of the depraved Humbert Humbert (HH). And this guy, like any other narcissist or sociopath, finds a number of ways to justify his behavior. The story is told entirely from his point of view, making the reader nearly complicit in his actions. We are even asked to bear with him as he explains his side of things. But I don’t think Nabokov was truly aiming for this. I don’t think we are meant to feel sorry for him, to understand him. I could be entirely wrong, but I felt the whole time that he was trying to show the reader just how twisted a mind could become in its search for justification and absolution. We can even snicker at HH if we want. Nabokov would in fact be delighted if we did so, wouldn’t he?! This is not really a laugh out loud kind of thing, but the irony is there in plain view. Especially when we are later confronted with another character who is made to seem even more despicable than our humble HH. Surely, HH is a simple, gutless wonder compared to this wackadoodle?!

“Please, reader: no matter your exasperation with the tender-hearted, morbidly sensitive, infinitely circumspect hero of my book, do not skip these essential pages! Imagine me; I shall not exist if you do not imagine me; try to discern the doe in me, trembling in the forest of my own iniquity; let’s even smile a little.”

I should point out that Lolita is my first foray into Nabokov’s work (it won’t be my last!). There are plenty of scholarly reviews out there that can do a much better job than I of explaining the brilliance of his narrative style and clever use of literary devices. It was evident from the start that all of those who sing praises to his skill are quite right. However, my lack of emotion while reading this book really stunned me. I surprised myself a whole lot more than HH managed to anger me. So, I’m left wondering if I am indeed one of Nabokov’s victims ensnared in that web after all?!

“The beastly and beautiful merged at one point, and it is that borderline I would like to fix, and I feel I fail to do so utterly. Why?”

…more

Source: https://thangvi.com
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