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Awe and exhiliration--along with heartbreak and mordant wit--abound in Lolita, Nabokov's most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert's obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love--love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.
A quirky farce...
All pedo jokes aside, this is one of the best modernist novels. Overtly, a blatant attack on Freudianism (what constituted pop psychology in the 60's), this novel is as playful and exuberant as it is visceral and fetishistically offensive. The style and wordplay on display are Nabokov at his very best. Every page offers up its moments of cognitive dissonance as you are laughing at the style while simultaneously cringing at the subject matter. What really drew me in was the almost travelogue language of seeing America through the eyes of an educated, but mad European...not the America celebrated on the covers of magazines, but the one lurking in the cramped spaces of a motor lodge, the roadside diner, and the endless freeways that are meant to connect us, but sometimes only lead us to detour after detour...kinda like the subconscious, eh Vladimir?
I am re-reading this novel and finding it even more enjoyable this time around as I discover new meanings and twists in the narrative. It's been thirty-five years.<br /><br />This time around I am noticing that Nabokov's technique of narrative via memoir, diary, letters,and other scraps and fragments of remembrance signal a discomfort with traditional narratives and their all encompassing scope and focus, a focus that often seals up the story, characters, and the action into a translucent jar where no new elements or possibilities can be introduced or even imagined. Hamlet uwill still only find Yorick but a skeletal remembrance, another lost father figure; Anna will forever fling herself with each reading into the path of a locomotive and out of the hope of renewal. Nabokov wants Humbert Humbert and Lolita to not only double up and morph into the vagaries of composition, he wants them to evolve into a multidue of possibilities, ever seeking new tangential lives outside their first encounters with the text and its readings.<br /><br />Nabokov's narrative is based on a Dostoyevskian mode, the unreliable narrator. A narrator whose diary is destroyed and one that he remembers verbatim, according to him. It is a story told from the confines of a mental hospital/prison inhabited for 56 days. The narrative style is best mirrored in the letter Charlotte leaves Humbert, a letter that he loses and yet offers up to the reader as an exact remembrance, one the he recalls verbatim. And yet this letter has the rhythm and sound of Humbert with its prompt to throw it into the "vortex of a toilet"(which he offhandedly admits to). Even the news of Humbert to Charlotte union in the society column of the Ramsdale Journal finds purposeful missteps. Her name is incorrectly rendered as Mrs. Hazer, Humbert claims his name as Mr. Edgar H. Humbert, and later he tells her that "society columns should contain a shimmer of errors", as do all narratives, shaped and formed with the care of a true story-teller. And thus deception and revelation work hand in hand to tell this story, reveal the truest impulses and foibles which haunt both the reader and its characters.<br /><br />Nabokov lets his narrative loose among this chaos of form for he believes that narratives, true ones, materialize exactly in this manner; that our lives are but fragments that we piece together and negotiate alongside and in concordance with a multitude of other narratives.
Leaves me speechless
I'm a huge Nabokov fan. Anything you chose to read by him reads like a symphony. His style, plots, and rhetoric are literally untouchable. He's a delight to get lost in.