A Few Marginal Notes on Rereading Vlamidir Nabokov’s Lolita

Author’s Note: I am no Brian Boyd, admittedly, although there are moments when I do want to be one.

  1. I still stand by what I have remarked to myself the first time I read this novel during my fourth year in college: The ‘other’ in the text is not Dolores, not dear Lo, not the captivating and child-like Lolita, but the love struck and seemingly cunning Humbert Humbert himself. The attraction, sexual pull, love, if we can call it that, and subsequent obsession with that particular Nymphette has rendered this intelligent, well-read and wise old man weak, fragile and ultimately susceptible to mind games. The dearest Lolita, of course, is very much aware of this predicament. She has known it since the morning they first made love. Humbert’s endeavor of fixing “once for all the perilous magic of nymphets” (142) and his predatory concern of possessing Lolita as father, lover and master has made him, at a certain point, blind to the fact that little Lo began to understand how he thinks, how he would react, how he “ticks.” Eventually, Lo uses this to her advantage. She uses this to acquire her spoils, her vanities, and her adolescent desires and cravings. In the meantime, Humbert remains at the sides, perpetually paranoid, submissive to the whims of his beloved, hostile yet begging for attention and affection like a dog, as if that would sustain him. What is then the point of all of this? Is it to demonize the female gender? Is it to reveal a truth behind the veil of innocence and seduction? Is it the attempt to put the two genders on an equal playing field where both have the opportunity to become the hunter or the hunted, the seducer and the seduced, the lover and the beloved? Or is it quite simply a narrative that presents to us a reversal of roles?
  2. A part of me is quite hesitant to pursue the attempt of exploring the power struggle between genders in this narrative text, which I think has been numerous times already. It is a beautiful novel, a favorite of mine, one that will constantly remain with me throughout my whole writing life, and I dare not reduce the novel and its complexity, elegance, subtlety and brilliance to mere politics.
  3. One should also to take into consideration that the entire text is “a confession of a white widowed male,” written by this so-called “Humbert Humbert” before he died from Coronoary Thrombosis on November 16, 1952 (3). This main confession is only a large chunk of the novel; it is not the entire thing itself, as its entirety would include the foreword that tells of the relevant information regarding the confession and the case. This foreword alone, which was fashioned by Nabokov in the beginning of the novel either as a hint or as a technique that would leave us dumbfounded, presents two possible truths. First that, since it’s a confession, we can treat it as something true, as fact, something that would embody what a confession ought to be. Second, taking into account that this was written at the thought of incarceration, he wrote a lie, something that would position him as a mere victim, as the tempted, as someone pitiable.
  4. If we do consider the entire confession as nothing but a falsification of the events so as to provide salvation for one sexually-crazed intellectual, it partly destroys, at least for this reader, the notion that the text is a discourse on the realm of the erotic.
  5. With the second option in mind, it would also make sense why Humbert Humbert never resorted to vulgar terms, sexual colloquialisms and uncouth remarks during the course of his storytelling. Using these words, especially the word “Fuck” (which I felt was appropriate in some of the scenes and instances he found himself in) would not assist him in his plight to elicit pity and support from his reader.
  6. I am inclined to choose the first option proposed by the confession, that it is truth, that it is fact, that this is the bared soul of a man who finds himself wanting and loving Dolores. I simply find the text more intriguing and infinitely interesting with that notion in mind.
  7. As a testament to my love for this novel, I bought the Everyman’s Edition of Lolita. I am quite happy with my copy. Every time I have it around with me, I make sure to show it to people, just to elicit feelings of envy from them.
  8. In my second reading, I found myself annoyed with Humbert Humbert. I found that the good part of the novel is dedicated to whining desperately over the situation he finds himself inexplicable trapped in. Yes, I understand it is a reflection and a meditation of the crime he has committed, on the vileness of his spirit, on his love and carnal fascination to the elusive and fleeting Dolores, but I cannot help but be annoyed at the sheer length of these passages. Maybe he just had too much time in prison, like the great Marquis de Sade. Despite this, despite my harbored spite for Humbert’s “rants,” I applause Vladimir Nabokov’s attempt to deconstruct and ridicule the machismo and uncanny libidinal abilities of men. In the most crass,vulgar and unscholarly remark I could think of, men, at least most of those who belong to my kind, do become whiny-ass dunces when over-exposed to the intangible feelings of longing and love.
  9. I have decided, like One Hundred Years of Solitude, Midnight’s Children, Planet Waves, The Tin Drum, 1984, and The Brothers Karamazov, that I shall read this book at least once in every five years.
  10. Here is a link to Herbert Gold’s interview of Vladimir Nabokov, which was published in the Paris Review: http://www.theparisreview.org/viewinterview.php/prmMID/4310
  11. Here is another link which leads directly to the Nabokov Online Journal, which I’ve just recently discovered: http://etc.dal.ca/noj/
  12. Everybody, say it with me: Lolita, light of my fire, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

gh there are moments when I do want to become one.

  1. I still stand by what I have remarked to myself the first time I read this novel during my fourth year in college: The ‘other’ in the text is not Dolores, not dear Lo, not the captivating and child-like Lolita, but the love struck and seemingly cunning Humbert Humbert himself. The attraction, sexual pull, love, if we can call it that, and subsequent obsession with that particular Nymphette has rendered this intelligent, well-read and wise old man weak, fragile and ultimately susceptible to mind games. The dearest Lolita, of course, is very much aware of this predicament. She has known it since the morning they first made love. Humbert’s endeavor of fixing “once for all the perilous magic of nymphets” (142) and his animalistic concern of possessing Lolita as father, lover and master has made him, at a certain point, blind to the fact that little Lo has begun to understand how he thinks, how he would react, how he “ticks.” Eventually, Lo uses this to her advantage. She uses this to acquire her spoils, her vanities, and her adolescent desires and cravings. In the meantime, Humbert remains at the sides, perpetually paranoid, submissive to the whims of his beloved, hostile yet begging for attention and affection like a dog, as if that would sustain him. What is then the point of all of this? Is it to demonize the female gender? Is it to reveal a truth behind the veil of innocence and seduction? Is it the attempt to put the two genders on an equal playing field where both have the opportunity to become the hunter or the hunted, the seducer and the seduced, the lover and the beloved? Or is it quite simply a narrative that presents to us a reversal of roles?
  2. A part of me is quite hesitant to pursue the attempt of personally exploring the power struggle between genders in this narrative text. It is a beautiful novel, a favorite of mine, one that will constantly remain with me throughout my whole writing life, and I dare not reduce the novel and its complexity, elegance, subtlety and brilliance to mere politics.
  3. One should also to take into consideration that the entire text is “a confession of a white widowed male,” written by this so-called “Humbert Humbert” before he died from Coronoary Thrombosis on November 16, 1952 (3). This main confession is only a large chunk of the novel; it is not the entire thing itself, as its entirety would include the foreword that tells of the relevant information regarding the confession and the case. This foreword alone, which was fashioned by Nabokov in the beginning of the novel either as a hint or as a technique that would leave us dumbfounded, presents two possible truths. First that, since it’s a confession, we can treat it as something true, as fact, something that would embody what a confession ought to be. Second, taking into account that this was written at the thought of incarceration, he wrote a lie, something that would position him as a mere victim, as the tempted, as someone pitiable.
  4. If we do consider the entire confession as nothing but a falsification of the events so as to provide salvation from one sexually-crazed intellectual, it partly destroys, at least for this reader, the notion that the text is a discourse on the realm of the erotic.
  5. With the second option in mind, it would also make sense why Humbert Humbert never resorted to vulgar terms, sexual colloquialisms and uncouth remarks during the course of his storytelling. Using these words, especially the word “Fuck” (which I felt was appropriate in some of the scenes and instances he found himself in) would not assist him in his plight to elicit pity and support from his reader.
  6. I am inclined to choose the first option proposed by the confession, that it is truth, that it is fact, that this is the bared soul of a man who finds himself wanting and loving Dolores. I simply find the text more intriguing and infinitely interesting with that notion in mind.
  7. As a testament to my love for this novel, I bought the Everyman’s Edition of Lolita. I am quite happy with my copy. Every time I have it around with me, I make sure to show it to people, just to elicit feelings of envy from them.
  8. In my second reading, I found myself annoyed with Humbert Humbert. I found that the good part of the novel is dedicated to whining desperately over the situation he finds himself inexplicable trapped in. Yes, I understand it is a reflection and a meditation of the crime he has committed, on the vileness of his spirit, on his love and carnal fascination to the elusive and fleeting Dolores, but I cannot help but be annoyed at the sheer length of these passages. Maybe he just had too much time in prison, like the great Marquis de Sade. Despite this, despite my harbored spite for Humbert’s “rants,” I applause Vladimir Nabokov’s attempt to deconstruct and ridicule the machismo and uncanny libidinal abilities of men. In the most crass,vulgar and unscholarly remark I could think of, men do become whiny-ass bitches when over-exposed to the intangible feelings of longing and love.
  9. I have decided, like One Hundred Years of Solitude, Midnight’s Children, Planet Waves, Watchmen, 1984, and The Brothers Karamazov, that I shall read this book at least once in every five years.
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