21 Sep 2010
"Lolita" - The Age of Innocence Lost
Vladimir Nabokov's "Lolita" had been on my TBR list for years and finally it landed on my doorstep the other day, thanks postman :-) Last week I was traveling with work so had to spend lots of time on a plane and in airports - which means lots of time to read! Lovely. I brought Lolita with me and from the very first sentence I was pulled into the grotesque, distorted world of Humbert Humbert, the infamous key character in "Lolita".
The story is well-know, so well-know that the name Lolita has come to signify girls who have sexual power over men much much older than themselves. At least I thought that I knew the story but really I just had a vague idea about it. So here is a short summary for those of you who know the story as little as I did.
Humbert Humbert grew up in Europe and ends up living with a widower and her teenage daughter. He is attrached to and becomes enthralled by the girl .
o the teenage girl Dolores - whom he nicknames Lolita - and in a desperate attempt to stay near her, he marries her mother. When his wife dies, Lolita has no other adult in the world to trust and so Humbert gets a power over her that she can hardly escape.
Humbert Humbert is attracted to children - girls from the age of nine whom he classifies as nymphets in an unconscious try to glorify his obsession with them. No no he is no villain, he is only interested in girls who encourage it themselves... This is a villain who does his utmost to conceal the hideousness of his mind, the awful crimes he commits towards a orphaned girl. Sometimes he does this so well that as a reader it is easy to identify with him - he reflects so very little on the impact his selfish behaviour has on Lolita. Lolita has grown up wild, going her own way and acting very much like a spoiled teenager who believes herself an adult - and then every now and then her facade breaks and we get a glimpse at a little girl.
It is a heartbreaking book in many ways about a man who forces adulthood on a teenage girl who doesn't know herself and her own boudaries and who are more or less dependent on him. At the same time it is the story of a child who gets an immense power over an adult and who in the ends brings about his downfall.
"Lolita" in some ways reminds me of "The Sopranos" by Alan Warner - both books tell the tale of the difficulty of growing up and of girls being forced to face their own sexuality.
It is a beautiful book and touching and if you haven't read it, please put it on your TBR list.