Lolita

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Lolita

by Vladimir Nabokov

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group | March 13, 1989 | Trade Paperback

Lolita is rated 4.3571 out of 5 by 14.
Awe and exhiliration--along with heartbreak and mordant wit--abound in Lolita, Nabokov''s most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert''s obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love--love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 336 pages, 7.96 × 5.17 × 0.71 in

Published: March 13, 1989

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0679723161

ISBN - 13: 9780679723165

Found in: Literary

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mozart of Literature? “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.” Just by reading these first lines of the novel, my heart pounded. I knew that I had before me, in my nimble hands, a work of art – a grotesque art in a form of memoir of a “White Widowed Male.” It must have taken abundant resolution to write this book in the 1950s, when such issues were not only barred from being discussed, but the possibility of such occurrences would’ve shocked any moral being. (Whatever that M-Word means!) As Nabokov explains the drudgery of getting his work published in the Afterword: “Their [publishers] refusal to buy the book was based not my treatment of the theme but on the theme itself, for there are at least three themes which are utterly taboo as far as most American publishers are concerned. The two others are: a Negro-White marriage which is a complete and glorious success resulting in lots of children and grandchildren; and the total atheist who lives a happy and useful life, and dies in his sleep at the age of 106.” The confessions of this “White Widowed Male,” Humbert Humbert are such they will make you uncomfortable and there will be a quenching desire in you to close the book, but you will not be able to fulfil the task. You have to read, you don’t know what to read. Nabokov’s use of the English language was sooth you, its prose will serenade your heart and implore you to keep reading until the end, until when all the treacherous laws are broken and desires fulfilled. This novel does not merely concerns carnal needs, those voluptuous appetites, these lines that Nabokov has written are not merely lascivious ramblings of a pervert, but something more profound; sentences dripping with those wet sincere words. What is even more remarkable is that English was not even the Poet’s (for Nabokov was not ordinary “author”) native tongue. So, perhaps that Question Mark at the end of my review title is nothing but a useless ornament, for Nabokov was a Mozart of Literature. Such reviews that I am writing, and others who have already written theirs are vapid because you have to read the novel in order to feel its essence and its magnificently grotesque beauty.
Date published: 2012-08-28
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Doesn't live up to the hype ***MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS*** I’m not entirely sure why this book is talked about so much. It seemed like Lolita, written by Victor Nabokov, was one of those books that a person must read in their lifetime, but after spending a few days on it, I wasn’t too sure why. Nabokov clearly has a gift for writing, but it seemed that the book just dragged on and on, even though the reader pretty much had it drilled into their brain that yes, the main character loved Lolita. At first, I was intrigued, instantly thinking that this person—older person, really—must be caught by someone about his pedophilia. Lolita’s mother? A teacher? A friend of Lolita’s? To think that this would all be kept secret for so long just didn’t make sense to me. The subject matter—aside from the pedophilia—was quite difficult to stomach, too: the fact that the main character felt it was necessary to marry Lolita’s mother in order to, basically, molest his new daughter is just unthinkable. After Lolita’s mother dies, I also don’t understand how Lolita and her new father of one month manage to get away from school and society for well over a year—no one asks questions anymore? It just seems strange to me that this man could get away with what he got away with. I guess I just feel like I was ripped off of my time having spent a few days reading this. Nabokov just went on and on, page by page, and I felt like all I could do was speed up my reading to just get the darn book read. Not very English-minor of me, eh? I realize that Nabokov loved words and he did a magnificent job of crafting sentences—even if they were excruciatingly long at some points. In the end, there was very little “love” in the novel. Humbert married Lolita’s mother just to get closer to her. He wondered what it would be like to impregnate Lolita so he could have his way with their nymph-ish children. Lolita cried every single night when they were “on the road” after her mother died, but he would still have his way with her. It’s amazing she turned out how she did. That being said, I was mildly impressed by the turnaround in Lolita’s character. She turned from a manipulative little brat to someone with a little decency. And even though the subject matter was a little hard to digest, once any kind of seduction or “romance” came up, Nabokov didn’t even write about it. It was all implied, which was good since I don’t want to feel like I’m reading something completely indecent (I mean, why else would we have the Marquis de Sade?). Of course, I’m still not happy having had wasted my time.
Date published: 2012-01-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Disturbingly Remarkable Classic This is a disturbingly remarkable novel. Nabokov creates a timeless classic from cruelty, egotism, deviancy and loss of child innocence. This is a story of love and of lust. Readers will rethink the way they originally thought about the characters; readers will rethink all human morals for sympathy. Readers will start thinking about what is true and what is being exaggerated in the minds of the characters. I highly recommend this book.
Date published: 2009-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Classic! Beautiful, alluring and enticing this book is a love story in its own right. It's shocking nature and honest text makes one thoroughly involved in the lives of Humbert and his precious nymph. As the father of a young girl, some friends have thought that I would find this book unnerving. But it has been just the opposite. Taken into context it is an astounding piece of work. It is both cunningly edgy as well as incredibly sad.
Date published: 2009-01-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Perversely Perfect I really loved Nabokov's approach to Humbert's humanity and obsession. A beautiful tragic comedy about an impossible love which had me laughing from the irony of Humbert's delusions and Lolita's crass and childish behavior.
Date published: 2009-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Irreverent genius Disturbingly beautiful, Nabokov creates timeless poetry out of cruelty, narcisissum, deviancy and loss of innocence. Humbert's abashed love seems no more deniable than Charlotte's bold-faced lust, while you second-guess yourself and your morals for the sympathy you afford a monster. Nabokov's genius results in a comical, intellectual and emotive love story. In contrast, Humbert is a pathetic predator, his behaviour deplorable and his actions, unforgivable. Amid the selfishness and chaos lies the truely unjust solace bestowed upon an inncoent child made animal, object, nymphet. Tragically bewitching. www.booksnakereviews.blogspot.com
Date published: 2008-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lolita I truly loved this very beautiful yet tragic and sad Love story. The Two Lolita Movies are also very good. Buy it.
Date published: 2008-03-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Addictive This book was really hard to put down.
Date published: 2008-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from No less than a classic. This book was deemd as taboo when released due to the subject matter that Nabokov wrote about so explicitly. Although the thought of an adult man being in love with a "nymphet" is disturbing, the way in which he writes about it is far from it. While reading, you actually feel sorry for him and sympathize with him, His use of words and his ability to write about about such a topic without making it seem vulgar is remarkable. Everyone should read this book at least once in order for them to appreciate Nabokov's style of writing.
Date published: 2007-12-10
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Hmm blah It was interesting in the beginning and I was quite intrigued reading about Humbert Humbert's life as a child, with his first wife, etc. until he met Lolita, when he married her mom.... and then it just DIED down, just fell flat. It got boring and repetitive and nothing was coming out of it. I hated the ending; did not expect it to be like that. I don't recommend this book to anyone; there are better books out there.
Date published: 2007-09-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from On a book titled Lolita I picked up a antique version of Lolita that I found this summer. I decided to read it just because of all the taboo surrounding it. I can't express in words how addicted I become to Nabakov's imortal words. If you can look past the plot of an middle aged man pursuing a preteen girl, I promise you will develop a bond with Humbert Humbert, as he takes you on his psychological journey back and forth through his lovely madness. This page turning masterpiece leaves you shocked, laughing, and close to crying at the end. Pick it up, you will be happy you did. A truly brilliant piece of literature, by a true master.
Date published: 2005-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from nobokov for everyone i appreciate great liturature as i'm sure you do, but i don't always understand it. i enjoyed lolita the book very much but by listening to jeremy irons reading it, i can understand much better the language and especially the humor of vladimir nabokov. plus there's just so much more her or in the book than there is in either films (still i recomend kubrick's over lynne's).
Date published: 2001-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Disturbing and brilliant The key to appreciating Lolita is getting beyond the general plot-line; specifically, the affair between a middle-aged man and a pre/early-adolescent girl. If one is able to do that, then Nabakov's brilliance becomes unavoidable. He is a master of the "stream-of-consciousness" style, second only to James Joyce. The use of language and words is almost indescribable. Unlike many reviewers, I do not view Lolita as a love story; rather, I would say it is both an experiment with language and writing, as well as a psychological analysis of social-sexual deviance. (Although, as Nabakov himself notes in the afterword, he did not write with a theme or moral in mind; he simply wanted to play around with language and tell a story in the process). A suggestion to potential readers: if you tend to fly through books as I do, force yourself to go slow with this one. The story is easier to follow and your appreciation for Nabakov's style will increase dramatically.
Date published: 2000-11-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Like Poetry "She was Lo, plain Lo in the morning. Standing 4'10" 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...Light of my life. Fire of my loins. My sin. My soul. Lo-lee-ta...What I heard was the melody of children at play..The hopelessly poignant thing was not Lolita's absence from my side, but the absence of her voice from that concord...It was love at first sight, at last sight, at ever and ever sight." This is just some of the beautifully written lines in this novel and sums up pretty much the feel of the novel. It's a sad story of an impossible love. Humbert's obsession for little Lo is so real and almost disturbing that you almost feel guilty for loving a story with such a subject. I recommend "Lolita: The Book Of The Film" by Stephen Schiff. Great for fans of the movie!
Date published: 2000-04-23

– More About This Product –

Lolita

by Vladimir Nabokov

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 336 pages, 7.96 × 5.17 × 0.71 in

Published: March 13, 1989

Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0679723161

ISBN - 13: 9780679723165

Read from the Book

1 Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. 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. Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns. 2 I was born in 1910, in Paris. My father was a gentle, easy-going person, a salad of racial genes: a Swiss citizen, of mixed French and Austrian descent, with a dash of the Danube in his veins. I am going to pass around in a minute some lovely, glossy-blue picture-postcards. He owned a luxurious hotel on the Riviera. His father and two grandfathers had sold wine, jewels and silk, respectively. At thirty he married an English girl, daughter of Jerome Dunn, the alpinist, and granddaughter of two Dorset parsons, experts in obscure subjects-paleopedology and Aeolian harps, respectively. My very photogenic mother died in
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From the Publisher

Awe and exhiliration--along with heartbreak and mordant wit--abound in Lolita, Nabokov''s most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert''s obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love--love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.

From the Jacket

Awe and exhiliration--along with heartbreak and mordant wit--abound in Lolita, Nabokov''s most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert''s obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love--love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.

About the Author

Vladimir Nabokov was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1899. After studying French and Russian literature at Trinity College, Cambridge, he launched his literary career in Berlin and Paris. In 1940 he moved to the United States, here he achieved renown as a novelist, poet, critic, and translator. Lolita, arguably his most famous novel, was first published, by the Olympia Press, Paris, on September 15, 1955, and became a controversial success. Nabokov died in Montreux Switzerland in 1977.

From Our Editors

Without any question, this is Vladimir Nabokov's best-known work and it's easy to see why. Although Lolita is the kind of book you want to read with your eyes half shut in order to filter out some of the discomfort, you still have to read it. Reading the agonizing story of Humbert Humbert's obsession with Dolores Haze, a girl barely old enough to take the school bus on her own, is like watching a car crash in slow motion. Don't turn away, because otherwise you'll miss this fascinating deconstruction of the inevitable cultural clash not only between young and old but also between the old country and the new.

Editorial Reviews

"The only convincing love story of our century." —Vanity Fair

"Lolita blazes with a perversity of a most original kind. For Mr. Nabokov has distilled from his shocking material hundred-proof intellectual farce…Lolita seems an assertion of the power of the comic spirit to wrest delight and truth from the most outlandish materials. It is one of the funniest serious novels I have ever read; and the vision of its abominable hero, who never deludes or excuses himself, brings into grotesque relief the cant, the vulgarity, and the hypocritical conventions that pervade the human comedy." —Atlantic Monthly

"Intensely lyrical and wildly funny." —Time

"The conjunction of a sense of humor with a sense of horror [results in] satire of a very special kind, in which vice or folly is regarded not so much with scorn as with profound dismay and a measure of tragic sympathy…The reciprocal flow of irony gives to both the characters and their surroundings the peculiar intensity of significance that attends the highest art." —The New Yorker

"Lolita is an authentic work of art which compels our immediate response and serious reflection–a revealing and indispensable comedy of horrors." —San Francisco Chronicle


From the Hardcover edition.

Bookclub Guide

US

1. Lolita begins with an earnest foreword, purportedly written by one John Ray, Jr., Ph.D., author of Do the Senses Make Sense? (whose initials-- "J.R., Jr."-- echo as suspiciously as "Humbert Humbert"). Why might Nabokov have chosen to frame his novel in this fashion? What is the effect of knowing that the narrative''s three main characters are already dead--and, in a sense, nonexistent, since their names have been changed?

2. Why might Nabokov have chosen to name his protagonist "Humbert Humbert"? Does the name''s parodic double rumble end up distancing us from its owner''s depravity? Is it harder to take evil seriously when it goes under an outlandish name? What uses, comic and poetic, does Nabokov make of this name in the course of Lolita?

3. Humbert''s confession is written in an extraordinary language. It is by turns colloquial and archaic, erudite and stilted, florid and sardonic. It is studded with French expressions, puns in several other languages, and allusions to authors from Petrarch to Joyce. Is this language merely an extension of Nabokov''s own--which the critic Michael Wood describes as "a fabulous, freaky, singing, acrobatic, unheard-of English" (Michael Wood, The Magician''s Doubts: Nabokov and the Risks of Fiction. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995, p. 5.) --or is Humbert''s language appropriate to his circumstances and motives? In what way does it obfuscate as much as it reveals? And if Humbert''s prose is indeed a veil, at what points is this veil lifted and what do we glimpse behind it?

4. Humbert attributes his pedophilia (or "nympholepsy") to his tragically aborted childhood romance with Annabel Leigh. How far can we trust this explanation? How do we reconcile Humbert''s reliance on the Freudian theory of psychic trauma with his corrosive disdain for psychiatrists?

5. In the early stages of his obsession Humbert sees Lolita merely as a new incarnation of Annabel, even making love to her on different beaches as he tries to symbolically consummate his earlier passion. In what other ways does Humbert remain a prisoner of the past? Does he ever succeed in escaping it? Why is Lolita singularly impervious to the past, to the extent that she can even shrug off the abuse inflicted on her by both Humbert and Quilty?

6. How does Humbert''s marriage to Valeria foreshadow his relationships with both Charlotte and Lolita? How does the revelation of Valeria''s infidelity prepare us for Lolita''s elopement with Quilty? Why does Humbert respond so differently to these betrayals?

7. On page 31 we encounter the first of the "dazzling coincidences" that illuminate Lolita like flashes of lightning (or perhaps stage lightning), when Humbert flips through a copy of Who''s Who in the Limelight in the prison library. What is the significance of each of the entries for "Roland Pym," "Clare Quilty," and "Dolores Quine." In what ways do their names, biographies, and credits prefigure the novel''s subsequent developments? Who is the mysterious "Vivian Darkbloom," whose name is an anagram for "Vladimir Nabokov"? Where else in Lolita does Nabokov provide us with imaginary texts that seem to lend verisimilitude to Humbert''s narrative and at the same time make us question the factuality of the world in which it is set?

8. Humbert Humbert is an émigré. Not only has he left Europe for America, but in the course of Lolita he becomes an erotic refugee, fleeing the stability of Ramsdale and Beardsley for a life in motel rooms and highway rest stops. How does this fact shape his responses to the book''s other characters and their responses to him? To what extent is the America of Lolita an exile''s America? In what ways is Humbert''s foreignness a corollary of his perversion? Is it possible to see Lolita as Nabokov''s veiled meditation on his own exile?

9. We also learn that Humbert is mad--mad enough, at least, to have been committed to several mental institutions, where he took great pleasure in misleading his psychiatrists. Is Humbert''s madness an aspect of his sexual deviance or is it something more fundamental? Can we trust a story told by an insane narrator? What is Humbert''s kinship with the "mad" narrators of such works as Dostoyevsky''s Notes from Underground and Gogol''s Diary of a Madman?

10. What makes Charlotte Haze so repugnant to Humbert? Does the author appear to share Humbert''s antagonism? Does he ever seem to criticize it? In what ways does Charlotte embody the Russian word poshlust which Nabokov translated as "not only the obviously trashy but also the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely clever, the falsely attractive?" (Cited by Alfred Appel, Jr., in The Annotated Lolita. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970, pp. xlix-1.)

11. To describe Lolita and other alluring young girls, Humbert coins the word "nymphet." The word has two derivations: the first from the Greek and Roman nature spirits, who were usually pictured as beautiful maidens dwelling in mountains, waters, and forests; the second from the entomologist''s term for the young of an insect undergoing incomplete metamorphosis. Note the book''s numerous allusions to fairy tales and spells; the proliferation of names like "Elphinstone," "Pisky," and "The Enchanted Hunters," as well as Humbert''s repeated sightings of moths and butterflies. Also note that Nabokov was a passionate lepidopterist, who identified and named at least one new species of butterfly. How does the character of Lolita combine mythology and entomology? In what ways does Lolita resemble both an elf and an insect? What are some of this novel''s themes of enchantment and metamorphosis as they apply both to Lolita and Humbert, and perhaps to the reader as well?

12. Before Humbert actually beds his nymphet, there is an extraordinary scene, at once rhapsodic, repulsive, and hilarious, in which Humbert excites himself to sexual climax while a (presumably) unaware Lolita wriggles in his lap. How is this scene representative of their ensuing relationship? What is the meaning of the sentence "Lolita had been safely solipsized" [p. 60], "solipsism" being the epistemological theory that the self is the sole arbiter of "reality"? Is all of Lolita the monologue of a pathological solipsist who is incapable of imagining any reality but his own or of granting other people any existence outside his own desires?

13. Can Humbert ever be said to "love" Lolita? Does he ever perceive her as a separate being? Is the reader ever permitted to see her in ways that Humbert cannot?

14. Humbert meets Lolita while she resides at 342 Lawn Street, seduces her in room 342 of The Enchanted Hunters, and in one year on the road the two of them check into 342 motels. Before Lolita begins her affair with Clare Quilty, her mother mentions his uncle Ivor, the town dentist, and sends Lolita to summer at Camp Q (near the propitiously named Lake Climax). These are just a few of the coincidences that make Lolita so profoundly unsettling. Why might Nabokov deploy coincidence so liberally in this book? Does he use it as a convenient way of advancing plot or in order to call the entire notion of a "realistic" narrative into question? How do Nabokov''s games of coincidence tie in with his use of literary allusion (see Questions 4, 15, and 16) and self-reference (see Question 7)?

15. Having plotted Charlotte''s murder and failed to carry it out, Humbert is rid of her by means of a bizarre, and bizarrely fortuitous, accident. Is this the only time that fate makes a spectacular intrusion on Humbert''s behalf? Are there occasions when fate conspires to thwart him? Is the fate that operates in this novel--a fate so preposterously hyperactive that Humbert gives it a name-- actually an extension of Humbert''s will, perhaps of his unconscious will? Is Humbert in a sense guilty of Charlotte''s death? Discuss the broader question of culpability as it resonates throughout this book.

16. Quilty makes his first onstage appearance at The Enchanted Hunters, just before Humbert beds Lolita for the first time. Yet rumors and allusions precede him. Does the revelation of Quilty''s identity come as a surprise? Is it the true climax of Lolita? How does Nabokov prepare us for this revelation? Since the mystery of Quilty''s identity turns this novel into a kind of detective story (in which the protagonist is both detective and criminal), it may be useful to compare Lolita to other examples of the genre, such as Poe''s The Purloined Letter, Arthur Conan Doyle''s Sherlock Holmes stories, or Agatha Christie''s A Murder Is Announced, all of which are alluded to in the text.

17. Among our early clues about Quilty is his resemblance to Humbert (or Humbert''s resemblance to him). This resemblance is one of the reasons that Lolita finds her mother''s boarder attractive, and we are reminded of it later on when Humbert believes for a brief time that Quilty may be his uncle Trapp. How does Quilty conform to the archetype of the double or Doppelgänger? In its literary incarnations, a double may represent the protagonist''s evil underself or his higher nature. What sort of double is Quilty? Are we ever given the impression that Humbert may be Quilty''s double?

18. If we accept Humbert at his word, Lolita initiates their first sexual encounter, seducing him after he has balked at violating her in her sleep. Yet later Humbert admits that Lolita sobbed in the night--"every night, every night--the moment I feigned sleep" [p. 176]. Should we read this reversal psychologically: that what began as a game for Lolita has now become a terrible and inescapable reality? Or has Humbert been lying to us from the first? What is the true nature of the crimes committed against Lolita? Does Humbert ever genuinely repent them, or is even his remorse a sham? Does Lolita forgive Humbert or only forget him?

19. Humbert is not only Lolita''s debaucher but her stepfather and, after Charlotte''s death, the closest thing she has to a parent. What kind of parent is he? How does his behavior toward the girl increasingly come to resemble Charlotte''s? Why, during their last meeting, does Lolita dismiss the erotic aspect of their relationship and "grant" only that Humbert was a good father?

20. As previously mentioned, Lolita abounds with games: the games Humbert plays with his psychiatrists, his games of chess with Gaston Godin, the transcontinental games of tag and hide-and-go-seek that Quilty plays with Humbert, and the slapstick game of Quilty''s murder. There is Humbert''s poignant outburst, "I have only words to play with!" [p. 32]. In what way does this novel itself resemble a vast and intricate game, a game played with words? Is Nabokov playing with his readers or against them? How does such an interpretation alter your experience of Lolita? Do its game-like qualities detract from its emotional seriousness or actually heighten it?

21. The last lines of Lolita are: "I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita" [p. 309]. What is the meaning of this passage? What does art offer Humbert and his beloved that sexual passion cannot? Is this aesthetic appeal merely the mask with which Humbert conceals or justifies his perversion, or is the immortality of art the thing that Humbert and his creator have been seeking all along? In what ways is Lolita at once a meditation on, and a re-creation of, the artistic process?

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