I Wanna be Literated #252

I Wanna be Literated #252

Tuesday, 22 March 2022

by Vladimir Nabokov

Oef. This is the year I want to educate myself literarily. I want to read the classics to have some perspective. Read what the greats had to say. Train the old noodle, as it were. I felt like I should tackle Nabokov, and after hearing what the experts had to say, it turns out he is indeed considered one of the greats. And Lolita IS the best place to start with him. I went in with a lot of trepidation, but plenty of people who are smarter than me vouched for this novel. I found Lolita to be a pretty remarkable book, and there’s no way I’ll be able to unpack everything in here, but I’ll at least discuss the parts my dumb brain was able to process.

I don’t need to tell you what this book is about. Look it up. What I will say is that Nabokov is able to tell an interesting, engaging, and very touching story. Not touching from the narrator Humbert Humbert’s perspective, but from Lolita’s perspective. I’m no genius, but what I took away from this book is that Humbert is a pretentious, assuming, cunning, jealous, judgemental, faux academic narrator who is trying to bolster his own profile and the reader is supposed to see right through all of that. It’s not how he describes the events in his life, but the details that lead to those events that are supposed to give him away. He also tries repeatedly to justify his actions and even admits in several instances that he’s clearly a sick individual. It’s hard not to laugh at him.

Then there’s the character of Lolita, who the reader can’t help but feel sorry for as she’s in a victim, helpless, trapped, imprisoned, and fully aware of her circumstances. Luckily, the reader is spared most of the details about their intimacy, and instead we see Lolita come to realize that unless she devises a way out of this, she will never actually be able to move on with her life. She will stay in stasis, until Humbert discards her. What strikes me is just now smart, cunning, and resilient Lolita is able to be, negotiating with Humbert and devising a way out of her frightening situation. She’s never portrayed as being sad or terrified, only angry and frustrated. In many ways, she’s much more of an adult than Humbert, who’s responsible for ruining her entire life.

I doubt someone who’s been through Lolita’s trauma would be able to bounce back the way she does at the end of the book, but she’s still so young, who knows how that will manifest later in her life. In a way, she’s one of the great characters we want to learn more about. I didn’t think it would be the case, but Lolita is a gripping, suspenseful, and interesting book. I’m surprised I liked it so much. Turns out Nabokov IS one of the greats, after all. Oef.

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