- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Penguin; Film & TV Tie-in Ed edition (30 April 1998)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0140264078
- ISBN-13: 978-0140264074
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.9 x 19.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars See all reviews (271 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 66,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Lolita Paperback – 30 Apr 1998
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Despite its lascivious reputation, the pleasures of Lolita are as much intellectual as erogenous. It is a love story with the power to raise both chuckles and eyebrows. Humbert Humbert is a European intellectual adrift in America, haunted by memories of a lost adolescent love. When he meets his ideal nymphet in the shape of 12-year-old Dolores Haze, he constructs an elaborate plot to seduce her, but first he must get rid of her mother. In spite of his diabolical wit, reality proves to be more slippery than Humbert's feverish fantasies and Lolita refuses to conform to his image of the perfect lover. Playfully perverse in form as well as content, riddled with puns and literary allusions, Nabokov's 1955 novel is a hymn to the Russian-born author's delight in his adopted language. Indeed, readers who want to probe all of its allusive nooks and crannies will need to consult the annotated edition. Lolita is undoubtedly, brazenly erotic, but the eroticism springs less from the "frail honey-hued shoulders ... the silky supple bare back" of little Lo than it does from the wantonly gorgeous prose that Humbert uses to recount his forbidden passion: "She was musical and apple-sweet ... Lola the bobby-soxer, devouring her immemorial fruit, singing through its juice ... and every movement she made, every shuffle and ripple, helped me to conceal and to improve the secret system of tactile correspondence between beast and beauty--between my gagged, bursting beast and the beauty of her dimpled body in its innocent cotton frock. " Much has been made of Lolita as metaphor, perhaps because the love affair at its heart is so troubling. Humbert represents the formal, educated Old World of Europe, while Lolita is America: ripening, beautiful, but not too bright and a little vulgar. Nabokov delights in exploring the intercourse between these cultures and the passages where Humbert describes the suburbs and strip malls and motels of post-war America are filled with both attraction and repulsion: "Those restaurants where the holy spirit of Huncan Dines had descended upon the cute paper napkins and cottage-cheese-crested salads." Yet however tempting the novel's symbolism may be, its chief delight--and power--lies in the character of Humbert Humbert. He, at least as he tells it, is no seedy skulker, no twisted destroyer of innocence. Instead, Nabokov's celebrated mouthpiece is erudite and witty, even at his most depraved. Humbert can't help it--linguistic jouissance is as important to him as the satisfaction of his arrested libido. --Simon Leake --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
A masterpiece. One of the great works of art of our age (Independent)
There's no funnier monster in modern literature than poor, doomed Humbert Humbert. Going to hell in his company would always be worth the ride (Independent)
A great novel . . . It widens our own humanity (Guardian)
You read Lolita sprawling limply in your chair, ravished, overcome, nodding scandalized assent (Martin Amis Observer)
Nabokov's command of words, his joy in them, his comic and ecstatic use of them, makes reading his work such an intense joy (Daily Telegraph)
Lolita is more the shocking because it is both intensely lyrical and wildly funny ... a Medusa's head with trick paper snakes (Time) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
But what a poem. Humbert Humbert is perhaps the very model of the antihero but as he is also the narrator everything is seen through the prism of his own monstrous and predatory lusts. Lolita herself, as Humbert admits, remains something of an enigma throughout. The narrator is unable to see her as an individual and she is portrayed as the archetypal 'nymphet,' who serves merely to serve his own needs. Any deviation from this role is regarded as betrayal. But then the book is entitled Lolita not Delores Hayes and 'Lolita' is no more than the perfect nymphet lurking inside Humbert's diseased brain never a girl of blood and flesh.
Humbert does not in fact offer much in the way of self justification beyond the occasional admission of insanity and his sickening claims to truly love the girl. He also seems to grow in awareness of his perversion as the novel goes on but never seems to regret it. He starts by offering various justifications of child brides from history but his final allusion is to Sade's Justine which is surely an admission of guilt. But the prose is so tender and so darkly comic that all this is repeatedly obscured and Nabokov manages to win you a twisted sympathy for his protagonist even, almost, for his predicament.Read more ›
Strangely, no such law exists requiring similar caveats at the beginning of, for instance, American Psycho. But then we already knew that it's not the done thing to abduct, torture, rape and then kill women. Or indeed to abduct, torture, kill and THEN rape them. Pshaw. Let me begin by saying that, groping children is WRONG. Just don't do it.
That said, it's telling that when I Googled for a really well written erotic novel, the first one that comes up on several lists is a story about a kiddy fiddler. Go figure.
By turns, erotic, romantic, sordid, ironic, comic and tragic.
Romantic: The childish love affair between the young Humbert and his sweetheart Annabel - all unfulfilled fumblings and unconsummated gropings - is sweet and poignant. And yet it is what sets the man on the path to paedophilia.
Comic: Humbert's disdain for his "comedy wife", Valeria and her taxi driving, White Russian colonel beau. The laughs are the nasty, judgemental sort, the kind that you're secretly ashamed of.
Erotic: I'm sorry, but Nabokov's lingering description of the nymphet Lolita IS erotic. Of course it transgresses the most sacrosanct of social boundaries, but it is all the more prurient for it.
Sordid: Humbert attains his loins' desire and takes the (mostly willing) Lo on what he intends to be a paedophillic road trip around the American mid-West. Not graphically rendered, but even Humbert knows he's doing wrong (and he revels in it).Read more ›
Although Humbert is both the villain and narrator, he doesn't hide the sordidness of his crime, and the effects of abuse on Lolita are acknowledged. Nabokov brilliantly treads a fine line between making Humbert human (and seeing the world through his eyes) and recognising the reality of his crimes. Despite Nabokov's choice of making a paedophile his narrator and central character, there is little sympathy for Humbert throughout the book, and paedophilia is presented as being every bit as repugnant as it is generally viewed today. Where Humbert makes excuses for himself, it is clear that they are Humbert's, not Nabokov's, excuses, and we are not expected to sympathise. Humbert's actions are also not presented as being in any way erotic. There are no graphic descriptions either, the suggestion is enough.
Because Nabokov treats his subject so skilfully, `Lolita' was a fantastic book.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Get it and enjoy while you can. It won't be long before the revisionist brigade have it banned as somehow supporting paedophilia as opposed to examining and understanding what... Read morePublished 13 days ago by Mr. R. Riley
An unrivalled writer. Nabokov is the true master of prose and parody.Published 1 month ago by Vikki Dark
The most boring book I have had the misfortune to pick up to read. Have absolutely why it is one the must read booksPublished 1 month ago by Helen Hall
Despite the essential monstrousness of his acts, it is hard to come away from this novel without feeling some human sympathy for Humbert Humbert, a peadophile who despite gaining... Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jane Aland