Has anyone actually read Lolita?

(48 Posts)
Kirk1 Tue 12-Mar-13 10:14:15

Just that. We all know its a book about a dirty old man having an inappropriate relationship with a young teen girl, I was wondering if anyone has read it and can give an informed opinion.

I think in general people assume it's a book where she enjoys and asks for it, and/or makes apologies for his actions (Thinking of the phrase from it that I heard from the film with Jeremy Irons) Would you think less of me for having a curiosity about it and wanting to read the book for myself?

MooncupGoddess Tue 12-Mar-13 22:04:41

Possibly the funniest book I have ever read.

It's like eating foie gras, though... delicious, and full of complex rich flavours, but you feel rather soiled afterwards.

wafflingworrier Tue 12-Mar-13 21:56:23

i read it when i was 16 and hated it, i remember thinking the only reason it's still in cirulation is because of its controversial subject matter. she annoyed me as much as he did.

peeriebear Tue 12-Mar-13 21:40:03

I love it too. It's not 'pervy' at all. Humbert is repugnant and deluded.

Kirk1 Tue 12-Mar-13 21:28:51

Bloody hell he loves himself doesn't he! Forget "nymphets" what he wants to make love to is a mirror....

MiddleAgeMiddleEngland Tue 12-Mar-13 19:35:42

I've read it. Compulsory reading at university, but can't remember that much about it more than 30 years later.

It's one of my favourite books - a truly excellent work of literature. DD1 read it aged 15/16 and loved it too.

KatyPeril Tue 12-Mar-13 17:53:30

I've read it, years ago. I quite enjoyed it. It isn't overly creepy, or pornographic. It's hard to explain.

anonymosity Tue 12-Mar-13 17:31:54

Its an hilarious book - I wept laughing in some places. But I studied literature and so when I read I do enjoy books but can also take a step back, if that makes sense. I struggled with the misogyny of Norman Mailer sometimes at college and was advised to attempt to see past it, which I ultimately did.

SpringHare Tue 12-Mar-13 17:09:55

Quite, anneriordan. A 'Lolita', in the (vile) sense that Wyatt is using the word, can only exist in the deluded mind of a Humbert. It's depressing that the idea of a culpable, knowing 'Lolita' has such popular currency, when it's pretty much impossible to imagine the DM or most other media describing someone as a 'Humbert'.

anneriordan Tue 12-Mar-13 16:54:34

And PS I thought Petronella Wyatt was "well" educated, in which case she should know the title of her horrible article referenced on another of today's threads is deeply appropriate and "my father's friends were decrepit Humberts" would have made the point clearer.

anneriordan Tue 12-Mar-13 16:51:12

I haven't read it for ages and was probably a bit too young to do so when I did. But it was great enough that I remember loads of it, and when I come across quotations from it in other writing like essays or reviews I think about reading it again. One thing I seem to remember is that whatever Humbert says, Dolores/Lolita is absolutely not seductive (try visualising/verbalising things she does or says directly, without Humbert weaving his false commentary around them). There isn't a scrap of adulthood in Lolita so it's blindingly obvious any "seduction" is in Humbert's wishful delusions.

I read it years ago, and think I might revisit - honestly can't remember much about it. I did read Notes on a Scandal more recently by Zoe Heller, and I found that deeply uncomfortable.

BigJamTart Tue 12-Mar-13 16:22:59

It is a fantastic book. Very well written and darkly humorous too- and supposedly something of an allegory for the USA's cultural relationship with Old Europe? That's one interpretation, anyway.

The reader isn't supposed to like/identify with Humbert Humbert- he's an unreliable narrator, of course he's going to justify his dark obsession with Lolita. There are times when you catch glimpses of Lolita's distress through his academic pontificating and justification of his actions.

The old Kubrick film with Peter Sellers is very good, too.

mixedmamameansbusiness Tue 12-Mar-13 16:20:46

We read Pnin by Nabakov at book club and I really didn't like it and so didn't bother with Lolita as some members did. However recently I have been trawling the top 50 books of all time and it has come up so I may try.

Kirk1 Tue 12-Mar-13 16:12:26

Well, I have started on it. The language is sublime, that opening is poetic to the point you can forget the subject matter. His description of the "nymphets" is obviously describing his type (disturbingly DD is at that stage and she's stick-thin and has that confident air he seems to find so alluring. I can see his attraction to them) * mental note, reinforce DDs anti-perv defenses *

That line, the "she seduced me" that's the line from the Irons version of the film that was played endlessly while they were still shouting about it. I'm hearing Humbert as Jeremy Irons. I'm not sure if that's good or bad...

And I have never wanted to see the movie too.

I read Lolita some 20 yrs ago, and I think it is a great novel. Nabokov is a sublime writer, one of the best of the XX century.

SpringHare Tue 12-Mar-13 15:14:22

I think it's an amazing piece of writing. The popular culture idea of a 'Lolita' is very far from what Nabokov says about Lolita as a character, and that popular image does the book a great disservice. It's very obvious that the idea of the 'nymphet' is a twisted product of Humbert's mind, not a category to which any real female child belongs. The book is an exploration of the way a warped and self-excusing inner narrative results in devastating damage to other people's real lives. I can't construe it as victim-blaming (which I think the popular idea of Lolita is).

I think there will always be a problem with adapting it for film, because there's no real way of putting that subjective filter into a photographic medium. It is never OK to film a young girl to suggest the way Humbert sees her (though it does happen all too often). That's why it's a good novel, but not something which translates into images.

I imagine it might be a very difficult read for you, OP, given your experience. It imvolves being totally immersed in the thought processes of a paedophile whose cultured existence means he can use words to weave all kinds of ideas around something which the reader can clearly see is utterly wrong. If you want to read it, there's no reason why you shouldn't, but proceed with caution.

drjohnsonscat Tue 12-Mar-13 15:10:17

That's probably true sleepyhead but I felt the seeds of it were there in the original. He seemed to me to enjoy his portrayal. And I'm not just talking about idiot popular culture here either - the various films that have been made by various self-important film directors doubtless felt they were doing the book justice but surprise, surprise, there ends up being a lot of lascivious filming of a young girl - you can virtually hear the tills ring as they realise they've got "literature" with "legitimate girly stuff" at the same time.

sleepyhead Tue 12-Mar-13 15:03:30

drjohnsonscat - I think that says more about popular culture and our readiness to sexualise children than it does about Nabakov.

There's plenty Humbert Humbert in the Daily Mail for example.

ZZZenAgain Tue 12-Mar-13 15:03:05

I started it but I really didn't feel like finishing it. Not a book I enjoyed and I didn't complete it.

JudithOfThePeace Tue 12-Mar-13 15:02:59

As you can see from the discussion on this page, it is the sort of the book that encourages debate and divides opinion. I do think it is well-written, disturbing and thought-provoking. I read it many years ago and I suspect if I read it now - ten years older and with a daughter of my own - I would view it differently.

But the only way you can fully join in the debate is to read it yourself. So, to answer your initial question, don't be ashamed of wanting to read a controversial book in order to form your own opinion.

However,given your personal history, this may not be a literary debate you should try to be part of. Only you can know that, so take care.

sleepyhead Tue 12-Mar-13 15:01:44

Nobody who has read it could think she was "asking for it". It's utterly transparent (imo) that HH is deluding himself. I think the fact it's told from his point of view makes her complete lack of culpability even more obvious.

drjohnsonscat Tue 12-Mar-13 14:57:42

I found it pretty horrible. I don't buy it as a portrayal of sadness - author gets quite a bit out of his portrayal of lolita as has popular culture ever since. "Oooh look sexualised child - but it's literature so legitimate, goodie!"

crispsarenotoneofyour5aday Tue 12-Mar-13 14:50:54

Hi Lancelottie - my take on it was that from the very beginning of the book he alludes to the fact that he knows that he is wrong and it is the very fact that he justifies it to himself is what makes it all so sordid. He talks about her being "miserably unattainable" and also blames his genes for the way he feels about young girls. Am I right in remembering that the "she seduced me" line is when he is defending himslef to the jury? Always interesting to see others' views on books - two people can have such different takes on things. Another one we did was "In Cold Blood" - again, not something I would have ever read left to my own devices but has us talking in the corridors for weeks!

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