So begins one of the most controversial books of all times. The love affair between a middle-aged man and a 12-year-old girl.
I vividly remember reading Nabokov’s Lolita for the first time. Yes, I read it twice. Why? Not because of its subject, but because the writing style is so beautiful. I am sure most of you watched the same movie more than once. Not because of the topic or the actors (ok, maybe sometimes because of the actors), but for the feeling it gave you.
The same thing happened to me with Lolita. Or maybe it was just that the first time I read it, the whole thing didn’t make sense. The first time I read it, I was fourteen, just a couple of years older than Lolita first is in the book. While I still read it in record time, something didn’t quite click at that age. Adults were supposed to be more grounded then Humbert Humbert and they weren’t supposed to take advantage of young, impressionable little girls.
Reading Lolita 6 years later
Lo-lee-ta, the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth.
So, in my twenties, now older and with considerable more emotional baggage, I decided to give Lolita another try. I enjoyed the read as much as I did the first time (the fact that my memory sucks were just a bonus point, and it was like I was reading it for the first time). The impact it has on me, however, wasn’t the same. Sure, I was still appalled by the whole thing, but now I understood Humbert Humbert’s point of view to some point, twisted as it was.
I am sure that most of you read the book by now. But just to be safe, the story is about a middle-aged man, who in his youth fell in love with a girl. He tried to have sex with her, but something interrupted them. The girl died, he became obsessed with young girls (9 to 14 years old) he calls nymphets even as a grown up, comes to The United States, meets Lolita and her mother, marries the mother to be close to Lolita, mother finds out but dies in a car accident, he becomes Lolita’s legal guardian and finds himself in heaven. And then, the book starts.
A book you must read once in a lifetime
Now, after almost a decade since the last read of Lolita, I still have a love/hate relationship with this novel. I love the way the author wrote this novel. I love the fact that it tackled a controversial subject, not only at the time he wrote it, but in this day and age too. What I hate about it? The fact that everyone focuses on the romance between Lolita and Humbert Humbert. Sure, it is the main event in the book, but people don’t go beyond that, to truly try to get in the mind of the characters.
To bring it in a nutshell, I do recommend this book to read at least once in your lifetime. It is not a cult classic for nothing.