With a very famous story and very infamous subject matter, Lolita has become one of the most well-known pieces of modern Russian literature. Because of this, the novel has found its way on to many “To Read” lists of literature buffs. Despite many reviews, such as Vanity Fair’s claim that it is “the only convincing love story of our century”, Lolita is far from a “love story”.
Nabokov begins the story by highlighting the past relationship struggles of the narrator, who uses the alias Humbert Humbert. His first relationship was torn apart by death, and his first marriage was undermined by a heated love affair between his wife and another man. After his heart is broken by his first wife, Humbert moves from Europe to the United States. In Ramsdale, the New England town where Humbert decided to go to write, he moves in with a woman named Charlotte Haze and her twelve year old daughter, Dolores. While living with the Haze women, Humbert grows more and more attracted to Dolores, whom he nicknames “Lolita”, and his sexual urges grow.
As their relationship grows, Humbert continues to point out Lolita’s flaws in order to make his crime seem less evil. He proves to be a very unreliable narrator, focusing on all the wrong aspects of the story. Humbert brags about Lolita’s longstanding crush on him, as well as her defiant attitude which many would determine as normal preadolescent behavior. Over time, Humbert’s pretty little “nymphet” turns into an unattractive teenage monster; however, he continues a mental love affair with the twelve year old Lolita he first met. Had the story been told by Lolita, it would have been portrayed very differently.
While it is hard to say that one “likes” Lolita, it is definitely worth a read. It is easy to lose sight of the big picture when reading this book due to Nabokov’s beautiful style of writing, yet it would be wise to keep in mind the true nature of Humbert Humbert’s intentions. While much of this book may become emotionally hard to read, it is still a classic and quite possibly an important read.
Words by Casey