Author: Vladimir Nabokov
Genre/Themes: Modern Classic, Child Grooming, Paedophilia, Obsession
Blurb from Goodreads
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.
Lolita is one of those books that is frequently seen on ‘must read classics’ lists. So me being me I decided that I had to read it for myself so that I could understand why a book about the most disturbing of things, paedophilia, is so eulogised.
And I am truly baffled.
Yes. Okay, initially this book has incredibly beautiful prose. It has sort of a saccharine charm to it. Take this passage for instance:
“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, an 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.”
It’s quite seductively written isn’t it. Almost mesmerising. And this is what the book aims to do, it aims to tempt the reader into understanding the debauched psyche of Humbert Humbert. It tries to portray this most unreliable of narrators as a sympathetic character. It tries to con the reader into believing the veracity of his story…
And very early on I was tempted…
But I soon grew tired of this lecherous style of prose. It grew irksome. And I needed this book to be over with.
And you know what… I got so freaking tired of victim blaming Lolita. Characterising her as a temptress. A nymphet. A girl with all the power. A girl so alluring that a grown man would fall head over heels in love with her…
Lolita was a child.
There is nothing sexual about a child. They do not lead adults on.
So yeah, maybe you can argue that I don’t have the stomach for this. That I don’t like being made to feel uncomfortable and provoked by my reads.
But I would have to respectfully disagree with you. Because even if you set aside the paedophilic aspect of this book then I don’t think the quality of the writing even stands up to what I would term literary merit. It is what ultimately left me feeling so cold towards this book and not the uncomfortable subject matter. In my opinion just because a book provokes an uncomfortable reaction does not automatically make it worthy of praise.
But also screw it because this is a book that attempts to create a sympathetic narrative for a paedophile and I am not here for that. There’s enough crap in the real world with sexism, racism, xenophobia and homophobia etc. rife in our day to day lives that I don’t need to support this type of book that nigh on glamorises paedophilia.
If you want to read a book that properly explores the world of child grooming and is a much more interesting character study of those involved then I would highly recommend My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell.