Review: Lolita

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A literary masterpiece!
One of the most disturbing novels that I have read so far and yet, there are many points to discuss that can give many readers a plethora of opinions and discussions for analysis. I grant this book a perfect 5-star rating but I won’t ever place it in my all-time favorites list. If you really are into books, you might come across the fear of reading this just because one of your friends told you how creepy it is and the inquisitiveness in you led to the purchase of the novel(thanks to a friend of mine who shared his e-book library from Kindle, I don’t have to worry about that). I am no rookie to shocking/unsettling literature/film/music or any art in general and I can attest that this novel sent shivers through my spine and optic nerves greater than:

The Beatles’ Revolution 9
Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salo (The 120 Days of Sodom)
Ruggero Deodato’s Cannibal Holocaust
Anthony Burgess’ or Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange

Depending on your social/intellectual/spiritual/psychological background, this might be the one book you need to read but never ever want to read again. Love it or hate it but I know I won’t read this again because of its sinister mastery of style and narrative. Whatever way I analyse it, there will always be a realization that people are people and we have got to use our understanding of ourselves through others.

Before I begin to analyze, let me cite that “Lolita” is technically not about a pedophilia but a…

Hebephilia is the strong, persistent sexual interest by adults in pubescent (early adolescent) children (especially those showing Tanner stages 2-3 of development), typically ages 11–14. Hebephilia differs from pedophilia, which is the strong, persistent sexual interest in prepubescent children. It also differs from ephebophilia, the strong, persistent sexual interest in later adolescents, typically ages 15–19.
-from Wikipedia-

I first came across the title of the book back in college when I was reading/talking about discussions pertaining to the social impact of Japan’s Lolicon culture which is greatly manifested on most of Japanese manga and anime. Japan’s demographic statistics back then(in 2000) show a measly +1.1% birth rate and is now(in 2017) certified negative -0.8% birth rate. The point of the discussion was: Does the culture of people being attracted to young prepubescent girls have a negative/damaging effect to the social working class in general, relate to the low percentage of male young adults aiming to settle down and build a family? The so-called Lolita complex might be precursor to their media prevalence of Kawaii(quality of cuteness) on most of their modern way of life, if not all. The discussions are very broad and we know for a fact that many young and middle-aged men are already influenced by it in many of the South-East Asian countries. Most people influenced are already lessening the manliness in them. I am not expert in their religion, culture, socio-historical and economic factors but for the sake of argument I chose to side with the Negative. Anyway, this is not about that but rather a reference to the book’s influences.

I am not going to delve into the novel’s summary but rather how I felt by the sheer greatness of the writer. The novel is written in the first person narrative and the storyteller is a cruel unreliable narrator and he speaks in truth of his manners and intentions all throughout the story but what is most commendable is the style in which it is done. I feel that the manner and style is very similar to J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and Mark Twain’s Huck Finn but in no way is the content the same. The novel has a lot of anagrams, neologism, double entendres(double meanings), play of words and phrases, puns and the vernacular. The reader will forever wonder if Lolita’s motives are true coz’ we can only listen through the words of psychologically ill person and how it comes through to us is mostly hit or miss if we are not ready for justifiable interpretation. Part 1 is mostly erotic in motif but the second part opens up with social commentary and metaphors but keeping in mind that we are still inside the mind of helpless individual who can’t get out of his predicament. I had strange Kafkaesque feeling while reading this book and even at that it is truly a page-turner.

Most will argue that it is just an erotic novel which should be taken at face value but I think that there are more aspects to look into. The plot is engaging and if not for Nabokov’s talent to combine plot and literary stylistic method, this might be quickly dismissed as such. The fact that the 12-year old’s character perception of things cannot be revealed is one way to symbolize women in general. At one point, we can take this as a matter of offender versus victim but we can also think of it as victim versus offender. The protagonist tells his side and gives information that even Lolita is aware of the crime being done. He even accuses her as the one initiating the crime he has done. We cannot be sure anyway but that real life tells of cases wherein it has happened. The story can be taken as how can we, normal people, deal with a mind of a sick man who is entangled in a web of obsession of a girl who he truly adores and cares about but unfortunately, the societal norm just won’t have it. Even if his motives are true, society judges via his integrity. How can we empathize with a person who commits murder or frustrated Uxoricide? The novel also can be taken as a book of manners where we can use it as a reference to have first-hand knowledge inside the mind of a child molester. Most parents would want to consult books of non-fiction with regards to topics regarding their daughter’s developmental growth with society and venues outside of their own homes. We have the reports of crime against children being exposed in a 60-second report in most television networks’ primetime programming telling us that but do we really know how it happens? The mode and method of a crime being committed can never be revealed in such a brief TV spot. You have to be inside their criminal minds to better understand the workings of sinister evils around the world today. Another interpretation of this story might be a take on tyranny in the modern world. It might be an essay of a writer who came from communist Russia wanting to reform and speak of the ills his culture have experienced from the recent past.

The morality is not just about how to avoid being victimized but also how do we understand the criminals. We have limited background about the criminal’s family upbringing more so of the victim’s too. The environmental factors also contribute to each person’s character and we, as the reader( observer of the crime) judge the book as we judge them. I do intend to recommend this novel to anybody who is currently emotionally stable but not the interpretations that I have from it. Creeping out is normal but you’ve got to pull yourself through it in order to get the most of this one.

And now I conclude with the final passages from the book. Until the very end the reader is given a hint of the protagonist’s final advice for Lolita(to the reader) and still he ventures again on his uncontrolled psychological illness/obsession which we may never know if he truly did and will have remorse due to the fact that he died without ever being a truly changed man.

“Be true to your Dick(Lolita’s husband). Do not let other fellows touch you. Do not talk to strangers. I hope you will love your baby. I hope it will be a boy. That husband of yours, I hope, will always treat you well, because otherwise my spectre shall come at him, like black smoke, like a demented giant, and pull him apart nerve by nerve.”

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