Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov – Reviewed by Guy Portman


{Contains Some Spoilers}

The protagonist, Humbert Humbert, is an intellectual with an all-consuming craving for young girls, or nymphets as he refers to them.  After his wife leaves him for another man, Humbert Humbert becomes a live-in tutor for the Hazes, a family consisting of a mother and a daughter, the father having perished.  Humbert Humbert’s lust for the twelve-year-old daughter Dolores results in him marrying the mother in order to stay close to Lolita, as he affectionately calls her.

Humbert Humbert’s fantasies finally become a reality when Mrs Haze meets her demise in a car accident.  Taking this opportunity to withdraw Dolores from her boarding school, the two of them embark on a road trip, the protagonist defiling her at every opportunity en route.  Eventually Lolita escapes, leaving the heart-broken hopeless romantic Humbert Humbert’s world in disarray, culminating eventually in his suicide.

The subject matter of Lolita was scandalous at the time of its publication in the 1950s and to an extent remains so to this day.  Favouring narrative over dialogue, the prose is poetic and ornate, utilising a vast array of obscure English words in addition to French.

Lolita is a disturbing yet brilliant book, in which the author is able to successfully draw the reader to the subject of the protagonist’s lust whilst at the same time eliciting a feeling of shame at the paraphilic nature of this desire.  One is left to consider whether this literary masterpiece is in fact about the exploitation of an innocent minor by a depraved adult and not the manipulation of a meek adult by a conniving child.


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