I read “Lolita” back in my early twenties when I was finally done being brainwashed by Jane Austen’s perfect, nearly flawless people. Took me a few years to finally understand the flaws in Austen's heroes and heroines. Lets be real, Darcy can be a real dickhole. This isn’t a jab against Jane, whom I consider somewhat a personal hero. Dissenting into darker fiction and meeting Humbert Humbert, I had finally quit fetishizing and romanticizing shitty men in “romance” novels. “Lolita” is one of the more difficult, disturbing books I had ever read in my lifetime. There is no gore, no clowns with red balloons, no fire-breathing dragons, no Red Weddings…there is only a criminal who uses and abuses a child under pretext of “love.”
Not only is “Lolita” one of the darkest works of fiction, it is also the most misunderstood. Many people cannot and refuse to stomach it and I completely understand them. To read it, is to be responsible about it. To view it through a romantic lens is to disservice it and discredit Nabokov’s dark narrative that exposes corruption of youth through satire. Real life crime from 1948 is what inspired him. He explicitly asked the publisher NOT to feature young girls on the cover design.
“I want pure colors, melting clouds, accurately drawn details, a sunburst above a receding road with the light reflected in furrows and ruts, after rain. And no girls.”
“And no girls.”
Yet, five decades later, a google search of Lolita will bring up images of teenage seductresses in red lips and heart shaped glasses. No American landscape…
These images will sway you to view Lolita as the sex symbol who seduced her much older lover…not as the child he kidnapped and raped. It’s amazing how a book cover can shape the narrative, isn’t it?
If you ever decide to read this book, keep in mind that you will be reading it from Humbert Humbert’s point of view, which means he will attempt to trick you. HH is intelligent, well-spoken, funny…a master manipulator. He will bend the reality to shape a narrative you will find yourself almost pitying him. Do not fall for it. That is what abusers do. They victimize themselves. "She made me do it. She seduced me. I couldn't help it. She asked for it, Did you see what she was wearing? You make me hit you!" Nabokov even starts the book by calling the reader JURY…it is your job to maneuver around a charming rapist. You have a role while reading this book and it will make you laugh, cry and vomit. Do not let HH or Nabokov's writing sway you. The writing is absolutely gorgeous. Nabokov is the master of language and this book is the living proof of it.
I recall certain moments, let us call them icebergs in paradise, when after having had my fill of her –after fabulous, insane exertions that left me limp and azure-barred–I would gather her in my arms with, at last, a mute moan of human tenderness (her skin glistening in the neon light coming from the paved court through the slits in the blind, her soot-black lashes matted, her grave gray eyes more vacant than ever–for all the world a little patient still in the confusion of a drug after a major operation)–and the tenderness would deepen to shame and despair, and I would lull and rock my lone light Lolita in my marble arms, and moan in her warm hair, and caress her at random and mutely ask her blessing, and at the peak of this human agonized selfless tenderness
This sentence is so gorgeous and despicable, it makes me vomit and awe at the same time. That juxtaposition alone makes the book one of the best written pieces in English language, and English wasn't even Nabokov's first language. Two movies were made about it. Two movies you need to avoid like a plague because neither director really "got it" (captured its dark essence.) Its an incredibly hard thing to capture inner dialogue of a perverted criminal while he lusts after a child. Especially when both directors hire older, attractive actresses to play Lolita and completely miss the point. One would think Stanley Kubrick wouldn't be so gutless, and even he couldn't help but be a coward towards this novel.
This book is not a tale of ill-fated, forbidden romance. Its a cautionary tale of stolen life and corrupted youth. It gives a voice to a pathological abuser and a rapist. It is YOUR job to judge him harshly. Humbert stole Dolores's life. He shaped it in his own twisted way, took away her choice, her life, her decisions, her childhood, her youth, her mother, school, friends, home....his perversion corrupted her in every shape and form, until nothing but a shadow was left. It is your job as the Jury (the reader) to navigate past Humbert's unreliable narration and not fall into his trap of internalized victimhood. He is a rapist and a pedophile. Dolores "Lolita" Haze is the victim - a CHILD he victimized and destroyed. If you can stomach this type of content, if you can bare to read thoughts of a pedophile, all the excuses men give for sexually abusing their victims...you will come out of this experience disgusted. Or at least that's what I hope for. Fester in your own disgust, in your own literary vomit...I don't care, just evolve from it. I did and have never felt more furious and awake.