Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

lolitaREAD FOR BOOKCLUB

Chosen by Jo

Lolita is the story of a European scholar named Humbert Humbert who confesses to being obsessed with ‘nymphets’, ie young girls. He travels around America with his new wife and her teenage daughter Lolita and slowly becomes more and more obsessed with the 12 year old.

Humbert Humbert is both perpetrator and victim in his disastrous obsession with the young girl. In his record of his relationship with her, Humbert becomes a complex mixture of mad lecher who breaks the life of a young girl and wild romantic who suffers in his pursuit of his unattainable ideal. Vladimir Nabokov’s technical brilliance and evocative language help bring this tragic character to life.

When it was first published in 1955 in Paris, Lolita was quickly banned for its controversial content. Yet an underground readership grew, the novel gained international attention, and the bans were lifted.

Critics described it as a pedophile’s ideal. Fans lauded the work’s originality and wit. The mixed-genre, classic novel has since become widely read, accepted and championed.

Author Vladimir Nabokov argues that “what makes Lolita something more than either a case study of sexual perversion or pornographic titillation is the truly shocking fact that Humbert Humbert is a genius who, through the power of his artistry, actually persuades the reader that his memoir is a love story.”

The road now stretched across open country, and it occured to me – not by way of protest, not as a symbol, or anything like that, but merely as a novel experience – that since I had disregarded all laws of humanity, I might as well disregard the rules of traffic. So I crossed to the left side of the highway and checked the feeling, and the feeling was good. It was a pleasant diaphragmal melting, with elements of diffused tactility, all this enhanced by the thought that nothing could be nearer to the elimination of basic physical laws than deliberately driving on the wrong site of the road.

✔ “I was fully prepared to hate this book given its awful theme, however I was pleasantly surprised at how beautifully told this story really is. It’s very clever with Humbert being our unreliable narrator and Delorus or Lolita’s voice is effectively silenced – the reader needs to read between the lines to understand the true nature of their relationship which is wholly ambiguous.  A must read.” – Jo

✔ “It was Sophia who introduced me to Lolita years ago so I have her to thank for this perturbing read! The thing with Lolita though, is that it is the disturbing nature of it which makes it so grotesquely spectacular. It’s hard to know whether to love it or hate it, but there is the feeling that your emotions are being toyed with, by Humbert Humbert or by the author, or perhaps both. This is a book that messes with your mind – and that’s why it’s worth it.” – Rachel

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Published 1955
Penguin
368 pages

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