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.
Conjure up an unsettling plot, throw in some disturbing and controversial characters, then top it off with such fancy words and phrases—Lolita’s what you’re bound to get. Guess you really can count on a murderer for a fancy prose style, huh? But, in all honesty, Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is the pure definition of literary genius in so many ways. Despite the backlash and a couple negative reviews that trail behind its back because of its indecent theme, I liked it. In fact, I loved it.
Lolita is told from a first-person perspective narrated by Humbert Humbert himself in a very journal entry-ish kind of way. In it we follow his thoughts as he slowly falls in the deep pit of immoral desire and obsession towards 12-year-old Dolores, who he personally calls “Lolita”. But here’s the catch if you didn’t know it yet, Humbert, or as he refers to himself—H.H., is approximately in his late thirties (around 36 or 37) already when the plot begins. So that’s when you know that he is certainly up to no good and this book will be of a very mature (and again—immoral) nature when it comes to its theme.
I know, yikes.
The intriguing concept and theme of this book was what initially caught my attention as it in itself proposes the conflict of the novel. I thought, how in the world can the author properly articulate a middle-aged man’s obsession towards a literal child? But Nabokov did it in his perfectly poetic way of writing.
The first time I was finally reading its first few chapters I thought it was ridiculous and way too scandalous for my taste. At first, I thought it was pretentious, and that it was too sick and disgusting to even be reading. I mean, H.H. is straight up monstrous and obsessive with his thoughts and how he puts it in words. But then, considering its averaged 4-star Goodreads rating and the fact that it was claimed to be a classic, I realized I just couldn’t miss the latter half of the novel. In the end I decided to finish reading it and boy was I glad that I did.
The plot was a little slow, just like any other classic novel. But that’s what I honestly love about the classics—slow paced yet most of them exude exceptional character depths. And Lolita’s Humbert Humbert isn’t an exception to that. His thoughts were somewhat disturbing, but definitely has an interesting tone in it. There were some plot points I find to be super random, but I thought that it was the main point of the story—it’s insane. It’s meant to be sick and crazy and it is made to make you uncomfortably flinch as you read on.
But hear me out here, I loved this book and can and will re-read it for as many times as I can because of its incredible language and storytelling. The prose is everything—EVERYTHING. Nabokov exceeded expectations as he managed to smoothly tell such a sick and terrible story in a fancy, poetic way.
With Vladimir Navokov’s prose and perfect selection of words, Lolita makes the classic vile story of a criminal that will leave you wincing in the best possible way.