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Lolita Paperback – March 13, 1989
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Playfully perverse in form as well as content, riddled with puns and literary allusions, Nabokov's 1955 novel is a hymn to the Russian-born author's delight in his adopted language. Indeed, readers who want to probe all of its allusive nooks and crannies will need to consult the annotated edition. Lolita is undoubtedly, brazenly erotic, but the eroticism springs less from the "frail honey-hued shoulders ... the silky supple bare back" of little Lo than it does from the wantonly gorgeous prose that Humbert uses to recount his forbidden passion:
She was musical and apple-sweet ... Lola the bobby-soxer, devouring her immemorial fruit, singing through its juice ... and every movement she made, every shuffle and ripple, helped me to conceal and to improve the secret system of tactile correspondence between beast and beauty--between my gagged, bursting beast and the beauty of her dimpled body in its innocent cotton frock.Much has been made of Lolita as metaphor, perhaps because the love affair at its heart is so troubling. Humbert represents the formal, educated Old World of Europe, while Lolita is America: ripening, beautiful, but not too bright and a little vulgar. Nabokov delights in exploring the intercourse between these cultures, and the passages where Humbert describes the suburbs and strip malls and motels of postwar America are filled with both attraction and repulsion, "those restaurants where the holy spirit of Huncan Dines had descended upon the cute paper napkins and cottage-cheese-crested salads." Yet however tempting the novel's symbolism may be, its chief delight--and power--lies in the character of Humbert Humbert. He, at least as he tells it, is no seedy skulker, no twisted destroyer of innocence. Instead, Nabokov's celebrated mouthpiece is erudite and witty, even at his most depraved. Humbert can't help it--linguistic jouissance is as important to him as the satisfaction of his arrested libido. --Simon Leake
"Lolita blazes with a perversity of a most original kind. For Mr. Nabokov has distilled from his shocking material hundred-proof intellectual farce…Lolita seems an assertion of the power of the comic spirit to wrest delight and truth from the most outlandish materials. It is one of the funniest serious novels I have ever read; and the vision of its abominable hero, who never deludes or excuses himself, brings into grotesque relief the cant, the vulgarity, and the hypocritical conventions that pervade the human comedy." —Atlantic Monthly
"Intensely lyrical and wildly funny." —Time
"The conjunction of a sense of humor with a sense of horror [results in] satire of a very special kind, in which vice or folly is regarded not so much with scorn as with profound dismay and a measure of tragic sympathy…The reciprocal flow of irony gives to both the characters and their surroundings the peculiar intensity of significance that attends the highest art." —The New Yorker
"Lolita is an authentic work of art which compels our immediate response and serious reflection–a revealing and indispensable comedy of horrors." —San Francisco Chronicle
- ASIN : 0679723161
- Publisher : Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group (March 13, 1989)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 317 pages
- ISBN-10 : 9780679723165
- ISBN-13 : 978-0679723165
- Item Weight : 9.1 ounces
- Dimensions : 5.09 x 0.7 x 8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #6,507 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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We've all seen the movie, right? It IS a great film. But to read this book is far more frightening, disturbing and it's way more decadent and creepy. In a way it's kind of a horror story because the male protagonist, who narrates the book, is WAY CRAZIER than the character portrayed so well by James Mason in the film. He is a monster hiding in plain sight behind a teacher's mask. This book is so ahead of it's time.
Interestingly, there are characters, namely Lolita and her sicko drama teacher, who are developed BETTER in the film than the book. Chalk that up to the director's vision. Well, to make a long story short, you HAVE TO read this modern classic.
By Robert on May 10, 2020
In the end Lolita did not seem to be angry with Humbert. There are delicate emotions that she placed deep into her subconscious. It is why I think she admits that she is not truly in love with her new husband and basically sees Humbert as nothing but a person who can provide her with money.. Lolita “admitting “ to Humbert that her true love was Quilty can possibly be a play on her part to rid her world of both Humbert and Quilty.
Be warned. Try to go into this book with an open mind. It’s hard to get through some of the sensual parts of the book. If you do you will have a better understanding about the vitriol we feel towards pedophiles and a better understanding of the unrelenting compassion we need to keep showing the victims of these horrific crimes.
Top reviews from other countries
As it happened though, either this novel wasn’t nearly as profound as academics seem to consider it to be, or I’m dumber than I thought I was, because I saw nothing particularly significant or profound in it. Nabokov’s command of English is precise, well embellished and pleasing to read, (impressively so, given his native Russian tongue), but I don’t feel as though I gained anything from having read Lolita.
Perhaps it just doesn’t suit my incentives for reading, and that’s fine. If you read literature in an attempt to draw ideas from the texts then- as far as I can tell- this isn’t worth your time. On the other hand, if you are more emotionally malleable and enjoy immersing yourself in elaborate descriptions and ‘feeling’ your way through a narrative along with the characters, I think you’d likely get a lot more from it than I did. It ended up being a chore for me.
Let's me explain.
For the entire book you are in the head of Humbert, a unreliable narrator if there ever was one, who is a pedophile and falls in love with 12 year old Lolita. We never really know Lolita as Lolita, we only know her through the eyes of Humbert but he's more interested to tell us about car journeys than anything else. Its felt like we spent 70% of this book driving in his car and it was a snooze.
The author is totally playing to stereotypes here, the pedophile that swans around in his purple silk bath robe and perfumes his hair. Humbert is always referring to himself as fat and sweaty. I guess this is the time period before we admitted that monsters come in all shapes, sizes and are generally the normal looking human that lives next door.
And this is why it feels like a soggy fifties newspaper to me. I imagine on release this made headline news but as the decades have passed this just feels very weather worn and a bit meh.
I think my reaction to this book is because I went in expecting something much more than it was and not taking the publication date into account. I didn't find anything on the page horrifying, things are eluded too in a past tense, the reader protection level is high here.
I'm glad I've read this, it's a classic piece of Russian literature, ground breaking in its own time period and referred too a lot in modern media.
Clearly I am a weird human who is upset that I wasn't horrified and uncomfortable enough!
There is one thing which impressed me more and more, as I read through the story: narrator Humbert’s isolation. This isolation is not obvious at first. But you soon begin to notice the signs. His reluctance to let anyone get too close. His reluctance to reveal too much about himself in conversation. The endless, mindless travelling. All this betokens a very isolated person. Indeed, an isolated couple, for Lolita, while she remains with him, is isolated too. Middle-aged Humbert and adolescent Lolita, throughout most of the novel, have to keep their distance from everybody else. They remain isolated from the mainstream of humanity. Some would add that they are living outside the moral universe too.
A word on the narrative style. Lolita is a worthy successor to Wilde’s "Dorian Gray". There is a decadence in both novels; both are written in gorgeous, hothouse-artificial style.
I discovered an interesting sidelight on Nabokov’s novel. Or rather, upon its name. Nabokov lived in Paris for a time, and spoke fluent French. He may have been familiar with a historical novel by Cecil Saint-Laurent, called "La vie extraordinaire de Lola Montès". The real life Lola Montez was a 19th century courtesan, whose lovers included composer Franz Liszt and the King of Bavaria. Saint-Laurent’s book inspired a Max Ophul movie: "Lola Montez". It was released in 1955, the same year that "Lolita" was published. According to one reviewer, Lola in Max Ophul’s movie ‘is merely a passive blank onto which men project their fantasies.’ Which is exactly what Nabokov’s Humbert Humbert does with his own little Lola. He writes about her at great length, and with great eloquence. The bitter irony (and the sadness) is that this Lola is not a high flying courtesan, but a 12-year-old girl who reads comics.