‘Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.’
The reading of Lolita has undoubtedly been one of the best pieces of advice I have taken, given by the most wonderful person.
A few months ago, I was in one of my last A Level English Literature classes, in which the teacher had encouraged us to discuss our favourite novels. Upon telling the class that mine was ‘Lolita’, there was no reaction. Everybody was clueless. However, following a short explanation from my teacher and myself, they were somewhat disgusted. I can understand completely how it sounded to new ears but it is also necessary to understand quite how difficult a novel it is to explain, and how I struggled in spoken word to fully express it’s beauty as a text. That’s just it, ‘Lolita’ is beautiful, but it’s subject matter is far from it.
It is natural to assume that to read a book about a middle aged man’s infatuation with young girls and eventual criminal, immoral behaviour towards them, tantamount to child abuse, is to self inflict fury and disgust. However, to read ‘Lolita’ becomes a pleasure almost immediately. Perhaps quicker than you’d like it to. The juxtaposition of sexual fantasy and ultimately sex itself, and “nymphets” is uncomfortable and disturbing, and at times vivid description serves to heighten such discomfort. However, once again the literary craft just about manages to overpower such wrongdoing as the reader either ignores of forgets Dolores’ age and focusses on what seems to be love and passion. The idea that by the end of the novel we almost believe Humbert’s love for Dolores and even feel sympathy for his character is testament to Nabokov’s incredible skill. Personally, I couldn’t think of a more difficult literary challenge than to write about such an abhorrent sequence of events, yet to have a reader that remains sympathetic.
I don’t ever intend to force anything upon anybody. However, if any one of you is looking for a novel that you will find a (guilty) pleasure to read, one that will make you question, and most importantly one that will remain with you, then I would suggest that ‘Lolita’ would be a good choice. I will be eternally grateful that it was suggested to myself.