Of course, my reading of Lolita was prefaced with dire warnings from my friends. Not one person who had read the book could avoid mentioning the grotesque nature of Nabokov’s excursion into the mind of a paedophile, Humbert Humbert. And they were right, the subject matter is often gruesome and difficult to read. I did at times, like the friends who had embellished warnings into my mental construct of Lolita, consider just stopping reading midway. But I persevered.
What moved me to the end of the novel was Nabokov’s beautiful prose. His metaphor, his description and the way in which he so completely entered the mind of the most despicable character. His writing is not anywhere near too verbose or lavish, but it is simple, clear and beautiful: exquisitely intrinsic with meaning and word play.
As a lover of language, I am captured in Nabokov’s curse. After all, how can we readers be so interested in the paedophile’s mind. But, just like Humbert Humbert seduces Lolita, he attempts to seduce the reader, constantly justifying his evil intentions. We are drawn into his mind, a very uncomfortable place where we would definitely rather not be. He pleads with the reader to accept him for his evil ways.
We cannot accept his despicable acts. But Lolita does not invite us to. Nabokov is merely contemplating the mind behind such a vile act.
I have also written about Virginia Woolf’s thought-provoking essay, Thoughts On Peace in an Air Raid.