Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov- The most disturbing book I have ever read

book-cover-lolita1

I read Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov without reading any reviews or conversing with anyone who had read it before. I read the blurb at the back of the book and it had a general plot outline of a romantic novel across America. I don’t usually read romances but decided to read on anyway. It is right to never judge a book by it’s cover because I was utterly appalled. After a few chapters I stopped to ask myself how a book like this ever got published. Lolita tells the story of a man called Humbert Humbert who is obsessed with a twelve year old girl called Lolita. He rapes, drugs,kidnaps and imprisons this girl throughout the book at various points. Now this book sounds like a serious and harsh read but it is not. It is a harrowing and uncomfortable read at times but most of the time I found myself admiring the prose in the book and chuckling at Humberts sheer madness as we view the world through the eyes of a maniac.

The author skillfully deals with this taboo topic. There are points in the book where he at length describes how the physical form of children and Lolita in particular appeal to him. These descriptions are disturbing but they are done in a way which does not horrify the author into closing the book. In the edition I read, there is an explanation of the novel from the author Nabokov and it is a compelling read. In it he acknowledges the sinister nature of the book but he underlines the power and strength of the book in overcoming such a massive issue. Language and wordplay are at their finest in this novel and without it I doubt a book like this would have ever gone to print. Nabokov says there is a real skill in describing lewd scenes without being lewd. There is an unusual aspect in the book where the narrator constantly addresses the reader, acknowledging that he is a maniac and a pedophile. This put me at ease reading the book as I knew that the story was not just the wild imagination and lust of pervert. He constantly reminds the reader that it is against the law to do what he is doing but he is too obsessed to stop. It also is entertaining as Humbert frequently references the dismay we must feel as a reader before continuing describe another very inappropriate scene.

Nabokov makes a valid point in his reasoning behind his masterpiece Lolita. He asks the question ‘Why would anyone  want to read the allusions to the physiological urges of a pervert?’ His answer is simple, he doesn’t write didactic novels. He loathes writers who set out to teach a morale or have hidden meaning in a book. He writes simply for the love of aesthetics, that a book can be enjoyed without the reader trying to gain information about a country or social class. I agree with him entirely. Lolita is a beautiful read, it is one of the finest books I have ever read in terms of language and wordplay. It is a crazy book, maddening book where the reader asks themselves why or how  they are reading the content because it is insane.

After reading a book I always feel there is something trying to be told within the book, a lesson I could learn. After reading Lolita I didn’t feel this way. I felt delighted that I had read a thing of beauty and also felt horrified that maybe people like Humber Humbert could be on the loose in the world right now. This novel is a story to be read slowly and enjoyed. One has to constantly remind themselves that the narrator is a pedaphile with no conscious but you can’t help yourself from guessing what might happen next, the story is unpredictable and follows no rhyme or reason. Everyone should read Lolita.

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11 thoughts on “Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov- The most disturbing book I have ever read

  1. I’ll include it in my next order!!
    Oddly enough,everyone has had good things to say about this book!

    Your post somehow confirms my thoughts about this book: ”There are points in the book where he at length describes how the physical form of children and Lolita in particular appeal to him. These descriptions are disturbing but they are done in a way which does not horrify the author into closing the book.”

    That’s exactly what I expect from it: to confuse our emotions in regard to the character’s paedophilia.I really hope I’ll like it!

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    • yes, you definitely won’t regret reading this book! It’s completely unique! I see from your blog you are bilingual. There are a good few sentences in French in the book with no translation, you sort of have to read the paragraph to get the context to make sense of the sentence. You might enjoy this aspect. Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I’m actually currently reading this book, and enjoying it, especially the prose. It’s very disturbing, but I like books that tackle disturbing topics because it challenges me as a reader.

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  3. You should also check out some of Nabokov’s other books as well. “Pale Fire” and “Invitation to a Beheading” are both some of my favorites. “Pale Fire” is one of the most interesting pieces of experimental literature.

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  4. Nabokov is great! Although not everything he wrote has the “OMG am I reading THIS?” subversive thing of “Lolita”‘s plot, many of his other books are actually better. When it comes to the use of language, (whether it was French, English or Russian) few people could beat him.

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  5. Since you were wondering how Lolita ever possibly got published, it was first published by a publisher who mostly dealt with soft core porn. “Reputable” publishers weren’t interested. Nabokov became famous as an English writer – this was after he had immigrated from Russia to America, of course – when he published Pnin and then publishers were much more more willing to accept Lolita. It’s funny that you were put at ease because the language used isn’t overtly graphic because the fact that Nabokov requires you to use your imagination means that he implicates you in the creation of child pornography. That being said, while the book is disconcerting Nabokov himself was in no way a pedophile. He struggled with Lolita on many levels: because writing from the mind of a pedophile when you’re not is a difficult task, because English was not his native language, and because he had no affiliation with American girls and therefore creating an American girl who would fit into her contemporaneity was quite a challenge. Anyway, I’ll stop lecturing now, I just LOVE Lolita. Nice post!

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    • That’s a brilliant piece of information thanks, I found his rationale for the book as interesting as the book itself. He walked a tightrope between art and pornography I felt. The part of the book where he is attempting to drug Lolita is particularly disturbing but he writes it in such a nonchalant way you have to think twice about the severity of what he is doing.
      I would love to have seen his wife’s face when she read the first draft of the book, I wouldn’t sleep easy!
      Thanks for your insightful and informative comment.

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