Amy Reads Books

Lolita (Penguin Modern Classics)

Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov, Craig Raine Lolita is a novel that I'm glad I read, but I did not strictly enjoy reading it. For starters, it is so linked to immoral behaviour that I felt guilty even reading it in public. Then there is the fact that the novel is told from the perspective of Humbert Humbert, a man in his late 30s who sees nothing wrong in admiring 'nymphets'; girls between the ages of nine and fourteen who (somehow)give off a sexual allure.Humbert is, I felt, a far from sympathetic character. He made my skin crawl with his fascination with young girls and his obsessive knowledge of what young girls liked to wear. The thing that added to my general distaste towards him was the fact that he went so far as to place the blame for his behaviour on the young women-not unlike those men today who claim that rape victims 'asked for it'.This in turn leads to the reader looking at the titular character in two ways. Dolores Haze (a.k.a. Lolita) is a 12-going-on-13 year old girl when the novel begins, is slightly spoilt and like many other young girls is prone to throwing strops. She's a little headstrong and decides that Humbert, the new lodger at her house that she shares with her mother, looks a bit like one of her favourite film actors. Humbert insinuates that it was Lolita that seduced him, as opposed to the other way around. This seems a pretty bizarre statement for him to make, especially when the reader has seen him plotting to drug Lolita in order that he can satisfy himself without her knowledge. There is no doubt that Lolita is not a totally innocent child; and she seems to quite enjoy the power she realises she has over Humbert as she grows up; but to suggest that she encouraged Humbert seemed to me a little strong.However, what kept me reading was the Nabakov's compelling writing style. He makes Humbert's tale almost like a train wreck; it's dreadful but you have to keep watching, especially in that the reader learns pretty early on that Humbert is in some kind of detention facility. Nabakov also brings vividly to life the journey that Humbert and Lolita take; each seedy motel, palatial hotel and even poor Charlotte Haze's home; they are all vividly created in a way which allows the reader to almost feel the heat emitting from the pages.Lolita is certainly a novel that raises a lot of questions; particularly around the 'normalness' of sexual habits, and the involvement of psychiatric treatment, especially as the novel was published at a time when 'curing' homosexuality was seen as just as important as 'curing' pedophilia. Whilst I'm glad to have discovered Nabakov's prose and to tick another novel off the 'modern classics' list; I probably won't be returning to it.