Adonis Diaries

“Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov

Posted on: October 30, 2012

“Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov

I don’t recall when I first heard of “Lolita”.

One day, during my frequent visits to Barnes and Nobles in Montgomery County, I stumbled on the book “Lolita”.

Barnes and Nobles didn’t make it a comfortable place for people like me who could not afford to buy books, or the delicious pastries in the adjacent coffee shop, you go in from a door in the megabookstore.

It was hard to find a comfortable chair or table to read, and I sat on the floor.

I attended the talks of authors invited to publicize their recent books, sold at the store, in a corner, a dozen chairs set up for the audience…

Even at an advanced age, I felt uneasy to be discovered reading “Lolita”, and I am a slow reader, and I had to hurry to read as much as I could…I didn’t get the story: Just glimpses of what to expect…

Ten years later, I stumbled on the movie, in black and white, on one of the TV channels. I understood the story, and missed the interesting and most valuable treasures in the book…

And here I am, comprehending “Lolita” via “Reading Lolita in Teheran” by Azar Nafisi.

Basically, I am reviewing this book through the eyes, sensitivity, and comprehension of Nafisi…

Humbert Humbert is writing from jail on a murder charge, and not of the terrible harms he committed on Lolita…

Humbert is travelling and teaching literature in universities, maybe on sabbatical…He has an unfulfilled young love in Annabel Leigh.

At one of his sabbatical, he lands as a tenant at Charlotte Haze’s and rent a room. Charlotte is a bereaved middle-aged widow, and she suffered the loss of her 2-year old boy, and she has a 12-year old daughter Dolores or Dolly (Spanish for pain).

Charlotte marries Humbert and he treat her badly, as a faked southern cultured woman…The movie gave me the impression that Humbert planned the death of Charlotte…

Humbert arrives at Lolita’s summer camp to pick her up as her guardian father, and didn’t attempt to tell her the purpose of the visit. Nabokov writes on this visit of Humbert:

“Let me retain for a moment that scene…hog Holmes writing out a receipt, scratching Lolita’s head, pulling a drawer out of her desk, pouring change into my impatient palm, neatly spreading a banknote over it…photographs of girl-children, some gaudy moth or butterfly, still half- alive, safely pinned to the wall (nature study), the framed diploma of the camp’s dietitian, my trembling hands, a card produced by efficient Holmes with report of Dolly Haze’s behavior for July “fair to good, keen on swimming and boating”. a sound of trees and birds, and my pounding heart…

I am standing with my back to the open door, and I felt the blood rush to my head as I heard her respiration and voice behind me…”

This scene is the prelude to two years of captivity, during which the unwitting Lolita drifts from one motel to another with her guardian-lover. Humbert prevents Lolita to mix with children her age, watches over her so she never has boyfriends, frightens her into secrecy, bribes her with money for act of sex…

And all the while, Humbert parades as a normal husband, normal stepfather, normal human being

Humbert selected Lolita, Lo, or Lola for Dolly. She was Lolita when she sobbed on nights he had his ways with her. He tried all kinds of tricks to get in Lolita’s pants, drugging her, promising plenty of money and never delivering on his promises, threatening her and a few times beating her… As Humbert wrote: “She had absolutely nowhere else to go

The very first painful night, Lolita demands some money to call her mother. Humbert answers: “You can’t call your mother. She is dead” And in the middle of the night, Lolita came sobbing into Humbert’s bed, and “we made it up very gently. You see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go”

Humbert wrote: “What I had madly possessed was not she, but my own creation, another fanciful Lolita, more real than Lolita…Having no will, no consciousness, indeed no real life of her own…”

But Dolly had a past, and she is in lack of her mother and her brother and a steady place to live and friends…

Humbert turned Dolly into a reincarnation of his lost unfulfilled young love…

Nabokov tells on Lolita through Humbert, an imaginary past…Humbert is solipsizing Lolita, attempting to orphan the child for a third time by robbing her of her past, a figment in someone else’s dream.

Lolita’s truth, desires, life…must lose colors before Humbert’s one obsession of turning a kid into his mistress.

A half-living butterfly, fixed on a wall…This perverse intimacy of victim and jailer.

Humbert is exonerating his terrible actions by implicating the victim: “It was she who seduced me…Not a trace of modesty did I perceive in this beautiful badly formed young girl whom modern co-education, juvenile mores, the campfire racket…had utterly depraved. She saw the stark act merely as part of a youngster’s future world, unknown to others…”

Or in other paragraphs: “the vile slut, her obscene young legs (sitting on his lap), engrossed in the lighter section of a newspaper, indifferent to my ecstasy, as if it were something she sat upon, a shoe, a doll, the handle of a tennis racket…”

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