Do you ever wish you could read people’s mind? I do, multiple times. Isn’t it all so exciting to know what secrets are harboured in another person’s head, especially a very handsome, artistic, literary genius. I’d surely want to read that guys mind. But the truth is being in anyone’s mind is a horrible place to be, even if it is your own. And if that handsome, genius, adorably shy guy is a paedophile, we have no idea what’s in store for us. That’s exactly what reading Lolita is like.
Lolita is not a love story. It’s not a lust story, it’s not Fifty Shades of Grey. Lolita is a story about a guy called Humbert Humbert, who is a paedophile. He cannot contain his sexual attraction and obsession with girls aged between 9-13 (who he calls nymphets). And when he coincidentally meets Lolita, all hell breaks loose. Reading this book is like being in H. H.’s head, it all seems so beautiful but when you look a little closer you can see how dark, twisted, sickening and repulsive that place is. One thing we know from the start is that H. H. is not a reliable narrator. We have no idea what is true, and what is a lie. We don’t know how exactly Lolita was, all we can see are the fragments of his reality which he has created in his head and what he calls seduction is actually horrific abuse, gas-lighting, manipulation, isolation, and what not.
I have never read anything that has left me so conflicted. You either like a book or you don’t, it is that simple. But that is not the case with Lolita. When everything is written in a beautiful prose even when it is all so sickening how do you take it? Do you applaud the person for being so deep and complex, that posses this rare talent to make a despicable reality so poetic? Or do you simply hate and incriminate the person? How do you remove the art from the artist and look at it without any filters? We all experienced that when #metoo movement was in full swing, and this was the base of the conflict, getting rid of the art from the artist and making that person accountable for their actions towards another human being. All my life I read about Lolita in our pop culture as something- Oh! so scandalous, controversial, it’s basically porn. Lolita, a 13 year old girl, became this vile, sinister, wasted girl who has an affair with her step-father. She suddenly emerged as this sex symbol, who had to be kept hidden from children, adults, everyone, and the book has been banned multiple times. Even though the book is clearly about a paedophile confessing his crimes, the victim is sexually glorified and romanticised, what does that say about our society? I’ll leave you to think about that.
The author of this book Vladimir Nabokov wanted to create a reality and show the world how easy it is for an abuser to find his victims. And that is his literary genius, to leave the reader with several conflicting emotions at a time. It amazes me that Nabakov being a Russian wrote one of the best English literature, he wrote in English the way even English authors don’t. No doubt this book is a classic, it transcends every rule in the history of literature and creates a masterpiece that will be read, maybe sometimes misunderstood, but will never be forgotten.
To conclude with Oscar Wilde’s famous quote-
There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.
And, Lolita by Vladimir Nabakov is an excellent example of an immensely well-written book that, unfortunately, has mostly been entitled as an immoral one.