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Lolita (Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov)


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Despite its lascivious reputation, the pleasures of Lolita are as much intellectual as erogenous. It is a love story with the power to raise both chuckles and eyebrows. Humbert Humbert is a European intellectual adrift in America who is haunted by memories of a lost adolescent love. When he meets his ideal nymphet in the shape of 12-year-old Dolores Haze, he constructs an elaborate plot to seduce her, but first he must get rid of her mother. However, reality proves to be more slippery, than Humbert's feverish fantasies and Lolita refuses to conform to his image of the perfect lover. Nabokov's 1955 novel is a hymn to the Russian author's delight in his adopted language. Lolita is undoubtedly brazenly erotic, but the eroticism springs more from the wantonly gorgeous prose ans metaphors that Humbert uses to recount his forbidden passion. Humbert represents the formal, educated Old World of Europe, while Lolita is America: ripening, beautiful, but not too bright and a little vulgar. Nabokov delights in exploring the intercourse between these two cultures. Those who criticize this novel for being perverse are sadly mistaken and should take time to re-read it. We are allowed to share Humbert's every thought. Nabokov does not apologize for Humbert's lust or behaviour, but we understand why he falls in love with the nymphet, for he is frozen in time. He is no twisted destroyer of innocence. As a young boy he fell in love with this beautiful, young pure girl who died. So powerful is this memory of her, that he is unable to forget her image and is desperately seeking that same naivety and purity. This book is, whether idiotic people think it's pornography or not, written in a style containing both wit and imagination: it is wildly entertaining. We as readers are drawn to Humbert's insatiable hunger not related to paedophilia, but to the longing for love and acceptance. Lolita, née Dolores Haze, is responsible for her own downfall. As an American after the war years, she is forced by society - not by Humbert - to lose her innocence. Humbert merely recognizes her maturity. These are not the words of a child molestor. It is the horribly pathetic plea of a man engrossed in loving a girl whom he is not allowed to love. Society prevented Dolores from having a childhood, but it also prevented Humbert from having one. And when he tried to regain his resplendent youth in Lolita, he was rejected. Society did not want him to choose his true love. No librarian has ever read Lolita, because it's not available at the local library for being considered "pornographic". However, many women are sympathetic with the sexuality of the 12-year-old girl, because they were just that kind of a kid. Adults tend to forget or ignore the sexuality of young people, but it is there. The most fascinating aspect was Humbert's fall. He knows what he is doing is wrong, what the public thinks and yet he is unable to help it. This reminder of our failings is very troubling. Despite the silly moral issues it's a brilliantly written work of literature, of art. Forget the story, read the poetry of those words! As Nabokov himself said, the country is populated by a horde of C-minuses and very few people are capable of appreciating art or anything of beauty.