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Awe and exhiliration--along with heartbreak and mordant wit--abound in Lolita, Nabokov's most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert's obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love--love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.
Published: VintageAnchor an imprint of Random House Publishing Group on
ISBN: 9780307744029
List price: $11.99
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Peck's reviews make for fascinating reading, but I hate the binding. It's nigh impossible to hold the book open with one hand, and even with two, you almost have to pull each side apart.more
Lolita, the modern classic, is infamous enough to avert any stereotype and was definitely a wrong choice for me at this early stage of my “journey to classics”. The content is pathetic, obscene enough to be digested by anyone. Though, as I read a few more of these lately, it doesn’t took much time to conclude that “No modern fiction is complete without these explicit scenes described in lengths greater than actually required”.

Anyhow,the scintillating flow of the language by Nabokov is awe-striking. Such a good control over English, despite Russian being his vernacular definitely demands respect.Strength of the eloquence and the lively use of imagery at times become subtle enough to comprehend. The plot is a chase of the main character “Lolita” and his step father all across the east just for the sake of their survival.

Analyzing it holistically, the only statement that strikes me is that it is a “funny serious thriller” to be read once, criticized twice and never in one’s lifetime recommended to anyone. Commendation for the elusive piece of literature is also enough to compete with the renunciation it has faced latelymore
For once it's easy to choose Goodreads' 5-star rating for a book, given that the rollover reminds us this means 'it was amazing' rather than the 4-star 'I really liked it.' Lolita was amazing. I'm not sure I really liked it. I'm very glad I read it. I doubt I'll ever read it again.

I suppose the most astonishing, and uncomfortable, single aspect of a generally astonishing and uncomfortable book is that for 350 pages it locates us squarely inside the mind, the emotions, the urges and the actions of what must surely be one of the most venal, vainglorious, pathetically evil characters in all of literature. Humbert Humbert is intelligent, educated, witty and eloquent, and as such his confession/memoir, delivered through the veil of his own justifications and excuses, is shockingly seductive. In the course of our time with him we find ourselves laughing at his jokes, agreeing with his assessments, recognising his dilemmas. When his true nature shines through - and this is a negative shine, as it were, chinks of purest black in the light, bright armour of his self-aggrandisement - the pure horror of it is so overwhelming that it is, paradoxically, easier to ignore than to focus on. We don't want to go there. We don't want to comprehend what those flashes of unvarnished truth tell us is really happening to Lolita. His endless expositions of undying love and amused observations on the idiosyncrasies of early adolescence are so much easier to bear. And because he is unable even at the end, when the horror he has wrought can finally no longer be concealed even from himself, to acknowledge that his Lolita was never more than an innocent victim, and he never less than the most guilty of predators, he remains, for me at least, irredeemable.

Because in some ways his greatest crime is this: Lolita is never a person to him, never an entity in her own right, never a being entitled to any rights. She exists only in relation to him. He defines her nature, implicitly, in terms of his own reactions to her. The notion that he might be, indeed should be, completely incidental is not one he can countenance. And the greatest tragedy of the book is that because he never challenges, never wants to challenge, his own duplicitous perception, he makes of it a reality. Lolita is, in the end, what he has made her, and no more. We are unable to know her except as he has known her. Her life is truncated by his understanding of it.

It is easy to see why Lolita is on virtually every best-book list since the middle of the 20th century. It deserves to be there. It's a book that should be read, and talked about, and thought about. Should it be enjoyed? Well yes, for its mastery if not its subject matter. Nabokov's achievement is superlative. The style and structure of the thing, the framing devices and concatenation of tales, the pearls of prose, the characterisations, the sheer thrust and power of the narrative, are literally breathtaking. Readers talk about being transported, and it is a book that is deeply moving in every sense. For a writer it is an awe-inspiring work, an intensely difficult story to pull off in the purely technical sense made to look easy by the sheer lyrical bravura of the author. There is much to learn here - and be intimidated by.more
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Reviews

Peck's reviews make for fascinating reading, but I hate the binding. It's nigh impossible to hold the book open with one hand, and even with two, you almost have to pull each side apart.more
Lolita, the modern classic, is infamous enough to avert any stereotype and was definitely a wrong choice for me at this early stage of my “journey to classics”. The content is pathetic, obscene enough to be digested by anyone. Though, as I read a few more of these lately, it doesn’t took much time to conclude that “No modern fiction is complete without these explicit scenes described in lengths greater than actually required”.

Anyhow,the scintillating flow of the language by Nabokov is awe-striking. Such a good control over English, despite Russian being his vernacular definitely demands respect.Strength of the eloquence and the lively use of imagery at times become subtle enough to comprehend. The plot is a chase of the main character “Lolita” and his step father all across the east just for the sake of their survival.

Analyzing it holistically, the only statement that strikes me is that it is a “funny serious thriller” to be read once, criticized twice and never in one’s lifetime recommended to anyone. Commendation for the elusive piece of literature is also enough to compete with the renunciation it has faced latelymore
For once it's easy to choose Goodreads' 5-star rating for a book, given that the rollover reminds us this means 'it was amazing' rather than the 4-star 'I really liked it.' Lolita was amazing. I'm not sure I really liked it. I'm very glad I read it. I doubt I'll ever read it again.

I suppose the most astonishing, and uncomfortable, single aspect of a generally astonishing and uncomfortable book is that for 350 pages it locates us squarely inside the mind, the emotions, the urges and the actions of what must surely be one of the most venal, vainglorious, pathetically evil characters in all of literature. Humbert Humbert is intelligent, educated, witty and eloquent, and as such his confession/memoir, delivered through the veil of his own justifications and excuses, is shockingly seductive. In the course of our time with him we find ourselves laughing at his jokes, agreeing with his assessments, recognising his dilemmas. When his true nature shines through - and this is a negative shine, as it were, chinks of purest black in the light, bright armour of his self-aggrandisement - the pure horror of it is so overwhelming that it is, paradoxically, easier to ignore than to focus on. We don't want to go there. We don't want to comprehend what those flashes of unvarnished truth tell us is really happening to Lolita. His endless expositions of undying love and amused observations on the idiosyncrasies of early adolescence are so much easier to bear. And because he is unable even at the end, when the horror he has wrought can finally no longer be concealed even from himself, to acknowledge that his Lolita was never more than an innocent victim, and he never less than the most guilty of predators, he remains, for me at least, irredeemable.

Because in some ways his greatest crime is this: Lolita is never a person to him, never an entity in her own right, never a being entitled to any rights. She exists only in relation to him. He defines her nature, implicitly, in terms of his own reactions to her. The notion that he might be, indeed should be, completely incidental is not one he can countenance. And the greatest tragedy of the book is that because he never challenges, never wants to challenge, his own duplicitous perception, he makes of it a reality. Lolita is, in the end, what he has made her, and no more. We are unable to know her except as he has known her. Her life is truncated by his understanding of it.

It is easy to see why Lolita is on virtually every best-book list since the middle of the 20th century. It deserves to be there. It's a book that should be read, and talked about, and thought about. Should it be enjoyed? Well yes, for its mastery if not its subject matter. Nabokov's achievement is superlative. The style and structure of the thing, the framing devices and concatenation of tales, the pearls of prose, the characterisations, the sheer thrust and power of the narrative, are literally breathtaking. Readers talk about being transported, and it is a book that is deeply moving in every sense. For a writer it is an awe-inspiring work, an intensely difficult story to pull off in the purely technical sense made to look easy by the sheer lyrical bravura of the author. There is much to learn here - and be intimidated by.more
If you are studying for the GRE this book is an excellent review of vocabulary. English isn't Nabokov's first language and he has a better grasp on our native tongue than most Americans...and he's an excellent novelist to boot. Lovely.more

I found it really hard to rate this book. When I look at the relatively few books to which I have given five stars, this one doesn’t quite fit. I don’t love the characters and I don’t love the plot. As I listened to the audiobook - quite wonderfully narrated by Jeremy Irons - I often felt visceral disgust and horror. However, the work has wormed its way into my consciousness and I have a feeling it will be there for some time to come. The fact that it’s not a book to read and then forget but rather a book which will remain with me means that five stars is appropriate, notwithstanding how angry it made me feel.

What can I write about Lolita which hasn’t been written a million times before? There is probably nothing, but I can at least try to convey how and why the work made me react so strongly. First, from a literary point of view, it is a tour de force. The language is sublime: poetic and rhythmic, full of alliteration, puns and other wordplay – both in English and in French - all conveyed with biting irony and wit. The descriptive language is beautiful: Nabokov uses metaphor and simile to convey meaning in a way which is extraordinary, all the more so because English was not his first language. The literary allusions with which the narrative is peppered also add appeal to the work, if for no other reason than it’s fun to play "spot the allusion".

Secondly, Nabokov’s creation of Humbert is masterly. I loathe him: he made me angry and he made me feel physically sick. However, at the same time his wit made me laugh. Humbert is the ultimate unreliable narrator. I completely reject most of what he says, particularly about himself and even more so about Dolores*. That Humbert lies is clear from the narrative. That he lies to the reader is hard to deny. Humbert uses every trick in the book to create sympathy for himself and part of Nabokov’s genius is that some readers will fall for his tricks. Even readers like me who desperately want to see Humbert get his comeuppance will be moved by the poignancy of his final encounter with Dolores. Thirdly, even though she is only seen from Humbert’s distorted perspective, Dolores Haze is a memorable character. Nabokov’s writing allowed me to see beyond Humbert’s vision of her to the abused, knowing, resilient and brave child that she is. My heart ached for Dolores - the victim of a vain, egotistical and ultimately doomed monster.

This was not a pleasant or easy experience and I’m not sure that I could bring myself to go through it again. However, after avoiding the book for years because of its subject matter, I’m glad to have finally tackled it. I can't say that I "love" this book, but it’s an amazing literary achievement and on that basis alone I have to give it five stars.

* I will not call Dolores Haze “Lolita”. Referring to Dolores as “Lolita” is part of Humbert’s process of objectifying and diminishing her. For most of the time Humbert associates with her, Dolores is not a person - a person whose name signficantly means “sorrows” – but a collection of characteristics which spark his sexual desire. I am (just) prepared to accept that when Humbert encounters her again he finally sees her as a real person and realises the enormity of his crime against her. However, that part of me which distrusts Humbert still suspects that this is a ploy to obtain sympathy from the reader.
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