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novelist Robertson Davies excused the narrator entirely, writing that the theme of Lolita is "not the corruption of an innocent child by a cunning adult, but the exploitation of a weak adult by a corrupt child".

 

I am not of that opinion, seeing the child as corrupt. I'm just saying that maybe she was a bit over friendly, not fully aware of personal boundaries, or the decent distances to keep from an adult, as much as she should have been. And maybe this got her into a bit of trouble, with Humbert being what he was..... I don't know.

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I've never heard anyone say that... and I didn't even know it was in the dictionary.

It is an English word deriving from the novel but it's an expression that's used especially in French.

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Maybe he got the word from the dictionary and that gave him the idea for the book??
Lolita is a diminutive of the name Dolores.

No doubt it acquired its use as shorthand for a sexually precocious young girl after the book's heroine, but did it gain currency from the novel? Or from the 1962 film version?

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Lolita was a cult book in the 50s and 60s when an acquaintance with Nabokov, at least in the States, was de rigeur for highbrows. Like Joyce and Lawrence, Nabokov created a stir by his controversial subject matter, but now things have settled down. He is a remarkable stylist and is obviously a linguistic juggler in the manner of Joyce.

 

Although I was an advocate at one time, having 'taught' Lolita to grad students, I doubt if I'll ever return to the novel again. The beginning put me off with the author's penchant for playing with words, like the sound of Lolita's name and all that Sinbad the Sailor, Binbad the Bailer nonsense - it soon becomes tedious.

 

Worse, for me Lolita is, while socially and sexually a tour de force, essentially cerebral. It has no heart, is too clever and self-conscious (though not as bad as the author's later novel Pale Fire where he is definitely writing for the in-crowd of fellow academics). I never really believed in Humbert-Humbert, seeing him simply as the author in fancy dress.

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A Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

 

Humbert Humbert, who tells the story of his obsession with twelve-year old Dolores (aka Lolita) Haze is an engaging narrator. To society at large, this middle-aged college professor who seduces and kidnaps a schoolgirl is a monster of depravity, but, strangely, to the reader of his memoir he is an entertaining and even endearing charmer rather than a disgusting pervert. How does this come about? Well, at the start at least Lolita is half the wooer. When Charlotte Haze, Lolita’s mother, is about to drive her daughter off to camp to keep Humbert to herself, the girl impetuously keeps her waiting to dash back into the house and embrace her elderly lover: ‘A moment later I heard my sweetheart running up the stairs. My heart expanded with such force that it almost blotted me out. I hitched up the pants of my pajamas, flung the door open: and simultaneously Lolita arrived, in her Sunday frock, stamping, panting, and then she was in my arms, her innocent mouth melting under the ferocious pressure of dark male jaws, my palpitating darling!’ That the girl later wearies of her ardent pursuer - and he resorts to bribing her with expensive clothes and jewellery, not to mention the long trip across America and back - is another matter. Selfish and obsessed, Humbert constantly tortures himself rather than the girl, whose attitude to him during the long escapist trek after her mother’s death swings wildly between affection and contempt.

 

‘I am trying to describe these things not to relive them in my present boundless misery, but to sort out the portion of hell and the portion of heaven in that strange, awful, maddening world – nymphet love. The beastly and the beautiful merged at one point, and it is that borderline that I would like to fix,’ Humbert explains to the reader. The novel is one vast apology for his life and the obsession that gives it meaning. It’s at once absurd, comic, pathetic and sad, but always entertaining and even enlightening. The contrast between the protagonists assures that their intimacy will never be dull. Lo is a far from innocent, feckless American brat being cosseted and indulged by a sophisticated European. Alone together the sparks are bound to fly. Whether Humbert’s resort to firearms are: one, justified, and two, convincing in the final scene of carnage is another matter. But after all, the setting is gun-toting, wild America with all its gewgaw distractions. Here, anything goes; why not a little harmless incest?

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A Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita

 

Humbert Humbert, who tells the story of his obsession with twelve-year old Dolores (aka Lolita) Haze is an engaging narrator. To society at large, this middle-aged college professor who seduces and kidnaps a schoolgirl is a monster of depravity, but, strangely, to the reader of his memoir he is an entertaining and even endearing charmer rather than a disgusting pervert. How does this come about? Well, at the start at least Lolita is half the wooer. When Charlotte Haze, Lolita’s mother, is about to drive her daughter off to camp to keep Humbert to herself, the girl impetuously keeps her waiting to dash back into the house and embrace her elderly lover: ‘A moment later I heard my sweetheart running up the stairs. My heart expanded with such force that it almost blotted me out. I hitched up the pants of my pajamas, flung the door open: and simultaneously Lolita arrived, in her Sunday frock, stamping, panting, and then she was in my arms, her innocent mouth melting under the ferocious pressure of dark male jaws, my palpitating darling!’ That the girl later wearies of her ardent pursuer - and he resorts to bribing her with expensive clothes and jewellery, not to mention the long trip across America and back - is another matter. Selfish and obsessed, Humbert constantly tortures himself rather than the girl, whose attitude to him during the long escapist trek after her mother’s death swings wildly between affection and contempt.

 

‘I am trying to describe these things not to relive them in my present boundless misery, but to sort out the portion of hell and the portion of heaven in that strange, awful, maddening world – nymphet love. The beastly and the beautiful merged at one point, and it is that borderline that I would like to fix,’ Humbert explains to the reader. The novel is one vast apology for his life and the obsession that gives it meaning. It’s at once absurd, comic, pathetic and sad, but always entertaining and even enlightening. The contrast between the protagonists assures that their intimacy will never be dull. Lo is a far from innocent, feckless American brat being cosseted and indulged by a sophisticated European. Alone together the sparks are bound to fly. Whether Humbert’s resort to firearms are: one, justified, and two, convincing in the final scene of carnage is another matter. But after all, the setting is gun-toting, wild America with all its gewgaw distractions. Here, anything goes; why not a little harmless incest?

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Stumbled on this page looking for a thread on my current read, Bend Sinister. It has been a very long time since I read Lolita, and I came to it knowing more of Nabokov the obsessive lepidopterist than Nabokov the writer, but I had a completely different take on this. I didn't see it as about pedophilia itself but about obsessive love for beautiful things. And the taboo of underage girls seemed to stand in for the guilt he felt at having been such an obsessive collector, and therefore killer, of butterflies. But a guilt he mitigated by the rationalization of the scientific value of his obsession, whereas in Lolita he rationalized it by thinking he was educating the girl and giving her a better life. And also as a general treatise on obsession, and how those of us who are obsessed will trample heedlessly upon anything which stands in our way. Including the objects of our obsession, when they are subsumed by the mania to possess. But that's just my take on what I think of as one of the truly great, multi-layered books of all time.

Edited by Dan

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I have just finished 'Lolita' and I have to say it was a very slow and unpleasant read. I am glad I have read it and I believe the plot of the novel was original and interesting, however I wouldn't say I enjoyed reading it. H.H. is a very disturbing narrator/character and the way he treats and views Dolores infuriates me to the point where the novel is just painful to read. I enjoyed reading the first part of the novel more because it was not long and drawn out like part two, also Dolores actually wanted to be with H.H. during the first part. I understand why many people like this novel and I understand why it is considered a classic, but I really didn't enjoy it and definitely won't be reading it again. 

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One of those books you feel like you've read before you have.

 

I finally got round to it and must say the prose is magnificent (in book one especially). I found it lost it's way in part two when the book goes from his detailed and beautifully described obsession to a more straight-forward narrative about 'what happened next.' Listening to Humbert explain his perversions, justify them, make sense of them, was very enjoyable and despite the content and subject matter, the language used was so lyrical and fluid that it was a joy to read. In part two, however, it becomes a little dense and stolid given that he's now on the run with Dolly and detailing their day-to-day existence. I found myself losing interest. 

 

Then we have a kind of plot twist with a character (Quilty) that was so forgettable to me that when he was returned as Humbert's great enemy, I honestly wondered who the hell he was (I thought I'd missed some pages). Then the book descends into melodrama and murder and blah blah blah. 

 

I adored the first half of this book when it was... 'I would walk along the lake,' but struggled with the second half when it was... 'I walked along the lake.'

 

Very Good though. 

Edited by hux

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