Sunday, 30 March 2014
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Never has the world of literature been more steeped in controversy than with the introduction of Lolita in 1955. It is now 2014 but no doubt it remains very much a hot potato in book clubs and educational establishments all around the world. If you want to cause a stir, introduce a main character who is obsessed with girls as young as nine and kidnaps and seduces a 12 year old!
I have a vague memory of watching the film many years ago, I wasn't very old myself at the time and I can't really remember much about it. So when it came to reading the book, it was all new.
This book is as powerful and thought provoking as it is skin crawlingly disturbing. If you want a peachy ride, this isn't for you. Vladimir crafts the story well and the backdrop and the main character's obsession with little Lo creates tension that makes the pages turn by themselves. Reading Lolita is like being strapped into a fairground ride that gatecrashes the fairground and disappears into unknown, terrifying territory.
Personally however I feel that the plot jumped the shark a little bit too much as for me the best, most tension building and compelling parts where when Humbert/Arthur lived at Lolita's house as a lodger, before they embarked on their first trip around the US. It many ways it felt as if the rest of the plot didn't live up to the early promise and I think the whole book could have been 100 pages or so shorter. I also struggled with the fact that in parts the book often seemed to disappear into a strange no man's land where you are left wondering what is going on and the divide between drunken dream sequences and actual events at times became frustratingly blurred. Also I found the quoting of miscellaneous philosophers and writers a little aggravating.
On the whole, although I have a few misgivings I actually really enjoyed the whole, if not disturbing, experience and I'm sure this will stay with me for a long time.