Posted by M ws On Tuesday, October 20, 2009 8 comments

It may come as a surprise to you but one of my favorite authors (apart from Coetzee and Marquez) is Vladimir Nabokov - who is famous for his masterpiece, Lolita.

Lolita, which Nabokov began writing in 1949 and finally published in 1955, was revolutionary for its time.Two other authors whose works I also admire greatly - D. H. Lawrence and James Joyce had written about sexuality at the turn of the century. Few may know it but the evolution of psychology had brought the themes of sexuality and repression to the forefront of popular culture; yet no book had so explicitly explored the darker elements of sex and desire. To put it simply, Lolita was to the 20th century readers as Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary (another of my favorites) was to those in the 19th century or D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover to those in the early 20th century.

According to Wikipedia:

Lolita (1955) is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, first written in English and published in 1955 in Paris, later translated by the author into Russian and published in 1958 in New York. The book is internationally famous for its innovative style and infamous for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, middle aged Humbert Humbert, becomes obsessed and sexually involved with a twelve-year-old girl named Dolores Haze.

After its publication, Nabokov's Lolita attained a classic status, becoming one of the best-known and most controversial examples of 20th century literature. The name "Lolita" has entered pop culture to describe a sexually precocious young girl. The novel was adapted to film in 1962 and again in 1997.

Lolita is listed in the TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005.[1] It is fourth on the Modern Library's 1998 list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century.
The following is extracted from the opening page of the book and would be my favorite section as well:

Lolita, light of my life, 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.

She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.
Nabokov was not a proponent of Freudian psychology, but one must not ignore its impact on literature or on the study of human emotion. In Lolita, he attempts to subvert the traditional views of sexuality and psychology while pretending to pay homage to them. To me, the beauty of Lolita lies in Nabokov's subtle ability to outrage the reader and then to lure him to adore the protagonist and then to let the reader go through the gamut of feelings of horror, adoration, guilt and confusion until the reader asks himself/herself - How should I feel about Humbert Humbert? Why do I feel this way? Isn't it wrong? Gosh! What if people knew how I feel about Humbert and Lolita or Dolores? And the list of questions is unending...

As an example of postmodern literature, Nabokov successfully explores the fragmentary nature of experience and the complexity of language. From an academic viewpoint, Lolita contains a vast variety of linguistic devices such as puns, multilingual expressions, artistic allusions, word patterns, number patterns and references to other works.

I believe Nabokov has successfully shown us that a novel is not a fixed work of literature, but rather a more fluid, organic creation that is interconnected with other media. The most engaging part of the book (at least to me) is Humbert's elegant and sinuous prose, which however, conceals a subversive intent. It is this beauty and intensity of the language that allow readers to remain sympathetic to the pedophile protagonist and to compel them to read further, despite the numerous distressing events within the novel. Personally, I hated Humbert at the beginning of the tale and wondered if I should continue; yet the temptation to know more led me to turn page after page of the book.

Though Lolita is a fictional memoir, Nabokov actually shared many personality traits with his protagonist Humbert Humbert.

1. Both men were highly educated, academically oriented European exiles who made their homes in America.

2. They both possessed a compelling gift for language. However, unlike the pedophiliac, delusional Humbert, Nabokov was a devoted family man who lived a quiet, scholarly existence.

3. Because of Lolita's success as a novel and as a film, Nabokov had the funds to retire to Switzerland in 1960 and devote himself exclusively to writing until his death in 1977.

4. A prolific author, Nabokov's other notable works include Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited (1951), Pnin (1957), Pale Fire (1962), and Ada or Ardor: A Family Chronicle (1969)
5. Nabokov also developed talents and hobbies besides writing.

6. His passion for lepidoptera, the study of butterflies, earned him a position with the Museum of Natural History in New York. He was also a skilled chess player, a creator of Russian crosswords, and an avid tennis player.

For your information, Lolita has been made into two movies. Stanley Kubrick directed the first adaptation, starring James Mason, Sue Lyons, and Peter Sellers, in 1962. Nabokov himself worked on the script, and the controversial film, though generally well received, garnered criticism for being too darkly comical on the subject of pedophilia. Lolita was adapted for film again in 1997, by director Adrian Lyne, and starred Jeremy Irons, Dominique Swain, and Frank Langella. This is the version which I have bought.

I am not going to say more but if you have not read the book yet, you can download a FREE copy of the e-book here. Please read it, really!

I love Martin Amis' view of Lolita which you can find at this link.

You could also read more here.

If you have read Lolita and wish to share your views, please leave a comment which I hope may trigger a lively discussion of its style, content, themes etc.

I will be doing a few posts on Lolita and thus, I sincerely hope that you will read and enjoy Nabokov's Lolita.

*This is a repost of NABOKOV - DO YOU LOVE LOLITA? which was first posted in this blog on 29th November 2008 but was deleted in January 2009 together with all 2008 posts. I will be slowly reposting my old posts which have been archived in another site.

8 comments to LO. LEE. TA. ..LOLITA.......DON'T YOU LOVE HER?

  1. says:

    antimamak Paula ooi!!
    Lu cho seemid??
    don't want antimamak's digital music? lai lah... i sure those digital music will giving you extra inspiration for your writing.

    I really support you, even you didn't give me chiak lui. but still slam under penang sea when reading your article.. so deep loh!!

    Yes, your writing show me lui is nothing important at all.

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith LOL!!!

    My dear antimamak,

    Aiyo - I am in a very literate mood thinking about Lolita and then suddenly I see your:

    Paula ooi!!
    Lu cho seemid??

    I can die laughing at your lively humor.

    Seriously, Lolitais such a beautiful story with so many deep and significant meanings. Even though I have read it many times over the past few decades, each reading brings new revelations to me!!!

    I suspect some block readers think I am eccentric hehe cos one minute I can write on SoPo and the next - literary stuff and then music. But that is me - a little bit crazy, a little bit ordinary...but definitely not too giddy or silly :-).

    Yup - money is not important, dear antimamak - it is the heart that matters.

    Will write to you after this. Thanks! Lau ee here forgot lah :-( Minta maaf!

  1. says:

    Cat-in-Sydney O Wise Master,
    Lo and behold! Lolita, you say? Phew...that's one film my namesake can't make coz she's overaged...hahahah...
    My Mama thinks Nabokov is a paedophile at heart though he never practice it (as far as we know). You're an enigma. The adventures of Astrix, Tin Tin and Lolita? What a riot!

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith O dear Cat-in-Sydney

    I know. I am VERY eccentric and I love to write about a very broad range of subjects hehehe...

    Your mama is right abt Nabokov. He is what she said he was.

    You know - the beauty about LOLITA is that - while reading it, one may hate Humphrey but yet, hope that he ends up with Lolita. One may abhore the unholy liason and yet be alarmed that one could react in such a way.

    Such is the mastery of Nabokov's writing...

    The wonder of words

    Hey how was ur satay party???


  1. says:

    antimamak paula Ah:
    i would like to remind you
    everything old is the best one
    like lao ang ( old husband), Lao kua ( old song), lao chi ( old sister) Old wine ( lao chiu), lao khe Boo ( old chicken)
    only one lao hiao ( old gatal) ...

    please check your gmail. a lot of old old ... hope so don't call yourself as lao ee. i really pantang .. be evergreen always, this society is needed your article.


  1. says:

    Cat-in-Sydney Shh...don't let other people know. Brad & I are partial to raw meat, beef, chicken, lamb, all are goodilicious...we were told that it's good for our teeth by our vet. Anyway, Mama fed us some while she was making the satay sticks. So, we certainly had a yummylicious time. Can't wait for the next party...yeay!

  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear antimamak,

    Thanks for your generous gift of music and kind reminders re my age LOL!!!

    Have responded to your e-mail. Thanks so much for your words of encouragement.

    Take care and do keep in touch.


  1. says:

    masterwordsmith Dear Cat-in-Sydney

    WOW!!! The secret is out haha! You see - your mama loves you and Brad very much and I am sure by now, you are well fattened.

    Watch your waistline, Angelina. Mine is gone already haha. Send pics ok?

    Btw, the kittens left my garden and are still in the neighbourhood. My boy is always looking out for them but sadly, they have not made friends with him. One day perhaps..They sure look chubby like moi haha..


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