Book 39 Lolita
“Nowadays you have to be a scientist if you want to be a killer.”
We shall try not to talk about morals, they obviously have no place here.
But Humbert Humbert was only one of those things and right from the beginning we know it, there are no secrets in Lolita and I will not try to keep any. The great narrator of the book is leading us to his own melodramatic downfall and taking us through a vile road trip and vile existence. Perhaps, from an artistic, objective, perspective no character should be regarded as evil, we should simply look at them from their own eyes, and who would regard themselves as evil? Nabakov took this idea far from beyond the limit, bringing us to the misogynist pederast, though he certainly doesn’t blame his desires on anyone else, and I don’t think his plays to sympathy ever really work.
Of course, the story is not just the story of Humbert’s slide, but of the stylized nymphet who helped pull him down. Lolita is aware of the power she has over H.H. and this is really the story of two people using each other, only one of them is a criminal, but Lolita is complicit.
Reading the story is a clinic on characterization by narration. The book is most famous as an example of an unreliable narrator. A worthwhile exercise, I think, would be exploring the events of the book from Lolita’s perspective, as Humbert confesses towards the end of his story that he has left out certain memories that change the perception of the happy-ish life that he had imagined for himself. For my personal reading, I thought the things the author did in making sure that at every turn Humbert looked down on adult women as brutish, and often thought of murdering them, while many of the girls who crossed his path where given nymphet status if they so much as looked at him. In every female, regardless of age, he saw himself as the object of their desire that is why in the end it is Lolita’s rejection of him and the confession that she only ever loved one man.
“’He broke my heart. You merely broke my life.’”
On another personal note, the first chapter of this book hooked me. I absolutely loved it, but this has been one of those books that I never seemed to finish. It isn’t a hard book, unless you struggle with the subject matter, nor is it a long book. It just happened to not be a book that I owned. Across three years I’ve had three attempts to read it. Twice I got it form the library, twice I had to return it half read. Kindle wins again, my own supposed future as a writer takes note.
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.