Saturday, October 12, 2013
Book Review! | Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
Being a literature student, I had really lost touch with being interested in a book that i wasn't obliged to read, so I started taking out three books on a fortnightly basis from the local library after not being able to afford the bus fare to university (#studentlife). I firstly picked up The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus, Accaboria by Michela Murgia, and The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice. On a second trip, I came across Lolita. I'd been hoping to read the book for a while- I've noticed that I lean towards books written 1920-1960 as I enjoy fiction when it is well-written and rich but also not too heavily reliant on adjectives and over-explanation. However, Lolita does often fall in to this trap; which I assume to be due to the mindset of the obsessive and somewhat classically educated first person perspective of the main character ( the word protagonist, i feel, wouldn't be the term).
In other reviews Nabokov is hailed for enabling us to 'empathize' with the state of mind of a pedophile- but I do not share this view. It is made clear that Humbert views himself as a monster through various comparisons, despite referring to copious amounts of permitted incest and pedophilia in literature or as a past or present cultural norm to us- the reader- the 'jury' throughout. I was drawn to the unusual psychological viewpoint of the narrator when choosing this book, but I would be lying if I said the deluded and heavily erotisized language concerning children didn't make me uncomfortable and I did not achieve that 'couldn't put it down' experience because of this.
By a third of the way through, you begin to treat it as a study, which is apt as it is presented as a kind of testimony or court statement, appealing directly to you, the reader, for sympathy or forgiveness- of which he gets none. In terms of voice, the narrator's almost sociopathic personality is portrayed excellently- the way his character is full of misogyny and contempt for anyone except his love and the manipulation and extortion he uses to 'satisfy' his needs at the expense of his underage companion's happiness. This wouldn't have worked in a perspective other than first-person. I do wonder, however, how neuroscientifically sound the inference throughout that the loss of his childhood partner Annabel was in cultivating his elicit sexual preferences.
This book is rightly a classic, but one that mustn't be left for light reading on the train. It is a masterpiece of character development; there to be studied and admired, but psychologically exhausting for any supposed correctly functioning person. I highly recommend for anyone wanting to be challenged in both a literary and psychological sense.
That was my first impression, what was yours? Let me know in the comments