08 May 2004


Vladimir Nabokov
Hardcover: 366 pages
Publisher: Everyman's Library (March 9, 1993)

I owe my sudden interest in Nabokov to the autobiography, Reading Lolita in Tehran, a five star book that I`ve just recently finished. It's author, Nafisi, has a great deal of respect and admiration for the works of Nabokov. Her enthusiasm made me feel that I must be missing out on something good, and I decided to cure that posthaste. Lolita, being his best-known, seemed the logical starting point.

From the first paragraph I was smitten with Nabokov. He writes seamlessly, brilliantly, seductively. The depth of my admiration of Nabokov's literary skills continue to grow as I continued to read. This despite, or perhaps actually because of, the subject matter.

I'll take a small aside here to say that I do not feel that novels should be held morally responsible. I read death and violence and many of the other Seven Deadly Sins as much as anyone else--after all, I love a good mystery. Notwithstanding that view, I was still uncomfortable with Humburt's flagrant disregard of what is to me an unquestionable wrong--the violation of a child.

As I said, I love a good mystery, and yet I don't like to read from the point of view of the villain himself. I find it unsettling. I felt the same way being inside the mind of Humbert: disturbed, disgusted, perhaps even tainted. Such strong emotions conjured up solely by the power of Nabokov's persuasive writing. What higher compliment can I pay him?

So troubled was I by Humbert's treatment of Lolita, by the sway he held over me the reader, that I stopped half-way through the novel, saying I just couldn't finish it. But I had to. Despite my revulsion of Humbert, I HAD to continue reading. Nabokov had me so firmly in his grip that I was genuinely concerned for Lolita. I had to know what happened to this child robbed of her childhood. I had to know if she, who Humbert so causally dismissed as seducer instead of seduced, would be free of his tyranny. I had to know if Lolita, only seen through Humbert's eyes, would find a voice of her own.

I can't say that I "liked" this book--how could I enjoy reading about such merciless victimization?--but I can certainly say that Nabokov has won another fan.



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