Friday, March 21, 2014

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The key in his fist,
and his fist in his pocket,
she behind the door.

Simply put, Lolita is a comic, tragic love story of epic proportions that belongs with the great love stories - all of them a forbidden love - of literary history including Romeo & Juliet, the story of Oedipus, Anna Karenina, and Wuthering Heights. Humbert Humbert, a 40 something man, falls in love with a 12 year old girl, Dolores Haze - Lolita.

Lolita is masterfully and precisely penned with a wit that belies the tragic subject. You will not often chuckle while reading a pedophilic tale.

Humbert truly loves Lolita. As Nabokov writes, he'll love her forever but tragically she won't be Lolita forever. She will love him never. Humbert's love for Lolita is so pure that he murders the man who steals her (Clare Quilty) for his own impure purposes.

In this doomed couple, he's truly the child, anchored by the part of him that ceased to grow after the loss of a childhood love. She's truly the adult, mature beyond her years, strong, manipulative, old before her time, the aggressor in their first tryst. Her tomboyish masculinity contrasts with his effete, old-European sensibility.

Lolita is neither a sex tale nor a crime drama. Lolita is literature at its finest.

This review is for the audio book performed beautifully by Jeremy Irons. Coincidentally, Irons is also the star of the 1997 film version of Lolita ( Unfortunately, the film does not fare as well as the book. Without Nabokov's exacting prose, the film is somewhat neutered and has to rely on narration at certain points. I felt the male full-frontal nudity of Clare Quilty in the movie's climax was unnecessary. I suppose the idea was to hold Humbert up to a mirror, so to speak, so he may see the true, dark, ugly nature of his crime. But still, it almost spoiled the entire film for me. Plus, if you took that out and one F-bomb dropped by Lolita in the early part of the movie you could probably get the rating down from R to PG-13.

This review was extensively rewritten the morning after I originally posted it. Never blog with a headache and blurry vision caused by the onset of sleep.

I received no compensation of any kind for this review.

No comments: