Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

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“Lolita, light of my life. Fire of my loins’’ The first line of this controversial classic intrigues the reader instantly and is followed up by the story of Humbert Humbert’s sexual relationship with his 12 year-old step daughter, Lolita. The protagonist, Humbert is a European academic who remains in sexual bondage to ‘nymphets’ (Girls between 9-14 years), after Annabel, the girl he loved in his childhood died at the age of 13. He gets so hopelessly attracted to Lolita the moment he sees her that he even marries her mother to stay close to her. Humbert and Lolita then travel through a series of ‘incidents’ where he coerces, manipulates, and threatens Lolita into continuing their relationship.

The book is without doubt a tragedy, but it is handled and written in an ingenious fashion illuminated with caustic humour. As much as the subject matter, pedophilia is scandalous, the most disturbing thing about the book is the empathy the reader starts developing for Humbert who is indisputably the baddie, the sexual predator. I found myself constantly fighting with my superego as somewhere I started thinking that it is Humbert who is the victim of a corrupt child and his  own past-that makes him helpless to fight his compulsions. This speaks volumes about Nabakov’s mastery of deception. Readers always read out of a great curiosity about other human beings and that’s what Nabokov has so fearlessly given to the world of literature.

On a technical level, Lolita deserves a full five stars. The writing has intense layers and it is so rich, it will seem nothing like you’ve ever read. The book is challenging, but the reader cannot stop because one is automatically drawn towards the conclusion. Many readers label the book as erotic, which is funny considering the fact that there is not even a single vulgar word in Lolita. Lolita blazes, however, with a perversity of an original kind. The power of the book is that it was written in a time where Pedophilia and incest were considered creepy and a taboo, and it draws our attention to the fact that it was and it is very much plausible. There are some books which leave a lifelong impact on you, some for the ingenious writing, some for their shock value, and some for their ability to make you cry or laugh. Lolita has all of these and more. This book is thrilling, beautiful and disturbing at the same time, and that is precisely why you MUST read it at least once.

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