Lolita by Vladimir NabokovLolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita

byVladimir Nabokov

Paperback | March 13, 1989

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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.
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 nove...
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Title:LolitaFormat:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 8 × 5.2 × 0.7 inPublished:March 13, 1989Publisher:Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0679723161

ISBN - 13:9780679723165

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Reviews

Rated 1 out of 5 by from This is disgusting I could not look past the pedophilia and I found it impossible to appreciate the writing.
Date published: 2017-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thought-provoking An interesting read with biting satire
Date published: 2017-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favorite books I have reread this book multiple times, it sucks you right in. It is so beautifully written yet makes you feel so wrong for enjoying it so much.
Date published: 2017-11-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautifully Messed-Up This book is a controversy. It feels so wrong to read, and thats what turns people off from it. The style (and translation mostly) of Nabokov is challenging to read, but if you can brain-power through it, and look at it perspectively, you know this book is important. The story, superficially, about an old man and a young girl is disgusting, but knowing the context of his first child love, Annabelle, makes it understandable (which still doesn't make it right, obviously). There is no book like this. Its important to not put this book down. It feels wrong, but theres no harm in reading. Finish it. Introspect. See what it does to you, how you feel, how to feel towards Humbert. Revel in its beautifully written prose, it's horror, and it's controversy. Its not important to agree with Humbert, or even sympathize, but rather to let it wash over you, and make you feel something on a deeper, unspoken level. It's a work of sickening art.
Date published: 2017-10-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unexpected While the premise is controversial, I found the story really sucks you in and was hard to put down.
Date published: 2017-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Repellant and Beautiful The Great American Novel, as written by a Russian. A disgusting monstrosity, as described by a pedophilic poet. Lolita is a repellant, perverse novel, at times incredibly sickening to read. It's also a hugely important novel. Read it.
Date published: 2017-09-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Controversial Novel This novel definitely has a very controversial and twisted plot and you can't help but feel disturbed by the main character throughout the novel. Despite this, it was well-written and still worth the read! It is definitely a classic Russian work!
Date published: 2017-09-19
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not nearly what I expected As I read this book, I could not help but feel like it was just about a disgusting man justifying his relationship with a young girl. I could not finish it.
Date published: 2017-08-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Repulsive work of genius Read this book knowing nothing other than that it was a love story about Lolita. The content of this book is controversial, and the plot never takes a break from the controversy. At times I felt repulsed by the content, embarrassed to be seen reading it in public. However, Nabokov's prose is stunning but also genius, as the book morphs into a sort of game where he attempts to pull you in and challenge concepts of right and wrong, and traditions of love and romance.
Date published: 2017-08-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Challenges you I really like how this book challenges your perception of right and wrong. It really made me uncomfortable at times, not only because of the age difference, but also because I found myself sympathizing with the older man.
Date published: 2017-07-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Classic Read this a few months ago. Nabokov's prose is absolutely wonderful.
Date published: 2017-06-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Light of my light, Fire of my loins Disturbing, but is that the case of the most powerful books anyway? Nabokov's writing is stunning.
Date published: 2017-06-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Can't believe I liked this A middle aged man is in love with a preteen. Disturbing? Yes. In fact, some excerpts are extremely difficult to read through. However, thanks to his poetic writing, Nabakov somehow managed to make even this plot line completely enrapturing. How is it that I felt sympathy for a pedophile? This novel left me thinking long after I had finished reading.
Date published: 2017-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Disturbingly brilliant Although Lolita is definitely meant to disturb the average reader, it's an excellent book. The most disturbing part is the fact that a lot of people romanticize the relationship in this novel since it's definitely inappropriate and predatory on the part of the narrator. Be warned - this book will make you cringe.
Date published: 2017-06-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Not my favorite, but I had to see what all of the hype was about. It's disturbing, but it's supposed to be. It's also a little boring.
Date published: 2017-06-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Beautiful writing, if at times too eloquent. It's supposed to make you feel sympathetic and repulsed at the same time. Something very difficult to achieve.
Date published: 2017-05-07
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Just... don't. I don't even know what to say about this one. Gross concept, why would anyone want to read this? Don't like that we were forced to read this in school/university. I'll forever regret the time spent on this one.
Date published: 2017-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magnificent The best writing I've come across, yet. Some parts are disturbing; but Nabokov makes it up to you with his elegant prose. This is my favourite book.
Date published: 2017-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Shoot! I bought the flimsy paperback that is on this site and felt kind of ripped off, even though I love this book. I wish I had seen this hardcover first, because I would've spent the extra cash.
Date published: 2017-04-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from The Love of my life... This is not only an important book, it is a fantastic read filled with controversy and a stark look into the male id.
Date published: 2017-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book I enjoyed this though the story is disturbing
Date published: 2017-04-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from One of Nabokov's best It does feel kinda weird reading this book with its paedophile as the lead character, but somehow it works. One of his best.
Date published: 2017-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful Despite the creepy plot, the novel is rendered in such a spectacularly poetic fashion that you will find yourself overwhelmed by it.
Date published: 2017-03-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just bought it So excited to begin reading!
Date published: 2017-03-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Uniquely perfect This is one of those books, like JP Donleavy's Ginger Man, that you just won't read anywhere else. It has raw opinion, mixed into a great story. I put this proudly on my bookshelf with other books that might get a glare from someone else who's read it but might not like what it said..haha
Date published: 2017-03-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredible I always classify this as a horror novel. So good and so powerful.
Date published: 2017-02-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved This book! Such an intimate book, and the movies were fantastic as well!
Date published: 2017-02-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Lolita Great story. I love reading classics. However, I could not get through the book on my first attempt. I gave up, tried again a year later, and absolutely loved it! Once you get used to his writing style it is a wonderful read, just takes a little bit of effort. would still highly recommend.
Date published: 2017-02-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lolita Oh Humbert Humbert... you are swine. Lolita is not much better. Still, an interesting story. I recommend this to anyone who enjoys classics or controversy.
Date published: 2017-02-13
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Controversial and hard read I stumbled upon this controversial novel but found it extremely difficult to continue reading. It made me very uncomfortable although as you read on you feel more and more for Humbert. #plumreview
Date published: 2017-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nabokov never disappoints!! One of Nabokov's most known masterpieces. This novel is beautifully written, deep in its meaning and interpretations. Recommend to anyone who likes artistic, classical fiction.
Date published: 2017-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Classic One of the greatest books ever written.
Date published: 2017-01-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good but not great Although this book is controversial I did enjoy the writing style but found it hard to keep my attention.
Date published: 2017-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Controversial Literature Although controversial, this novel is compelling and shocking. Nabovkov writes in prose that is beautiful but also ominous.
Date published: 2017-01-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great A twentieth century classic for a reason
Date published: 2017-01-18
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Complex yet Unsatisfying This is an odd book. VERY well written, Nabokov's prose is incredible. Yet it doesn't feel organic. Perhaps that is the point, given Humbert's nature, but you never feel anything for anyone in the book. Horrible things transpire and yet you never feel any sentiment or frustration or fear or excitement. Again, this is likely due to the perspective of the narrator, but in the end it isn't as impactful as I expected.
Date published: 2017-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant and Disturbing This is a book I had to read for an English Lit class in university. I took many English Lit courses - it was my major - and kept only a handful of the books I had to read. This was one of them. First off, it is disturbing, yes. It's a first person narration, taken from a child molester's point of view, so how could it be anything but disturbing? I rated it a 5 out of 5 because I had no intention of liking the book at all, because of the narrator, and found I ended up really enjoying it. Throughout, Humbert Humbert does his best to defend his position, and while no reader could agree with what he does, showing how he rationalizes things in his mind is worth the 5 stars.
Date published: 2017-01-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lolita This book is creepy and taboo but utterly human. Very well written but will not be for everyone.
Date published: 2017-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love it! Although a very taboo subject, and may not be for everyone. It's such a beautifully written romance, I'm definetely gonna reread this one soon!
Date published: 2016-12-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from fantastic Although taboo this book was a masterpiece. The first paragraph had me hooked. Although disturbing it was truly amazing.
Date published: 2016-12-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A misplaced obsession #plumreview A truly great book if you can work around themes that might be quite disturbing to our modern sensibilities.
Date published: 2016-11-24
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not what I was expecting Sure its a classic, but the author does not shy away from disturbing details. Not for the faint of heart.
Date published: 2016-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from All I have to say is Love, love ,love , love Lolita.
Date published: 2016-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautifully Written Everyone should read this, in my opinion. The writing style will knock your socks off, and the story itself probably will, too.
Date published: 2016-11-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Odd and Funny It is definitely worth the read. Although I found it a bit disturbing. Also, I will always remember this novel by the line "...She would rather have a hamburger than a humburger"
Date published: 2016-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I owe this book a review I've read Lolita several times, not (only) because it's scandalous, but because it's so funny and well written. The writing here is highly original. I loved it. I don't write many reviews on this site. This will ease my conscience a bit I hope.
Date published: 2015-01-24
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 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

Read from the Book

1Lolita, 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.2I 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 a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three, and, save for a pocket of warmth in the darkest past, nothing of her subsists within the hollows and dells of memory, over which, if you can still stand my style (I am writing under observation), the sun of my infancy had set: surely, you all know those redolent remnants of day suspended, with the midges, about some hedge in bloom or suddenly entered and traversed by the rambler, at the bottom of a hill, in the summer dusk; a furry warmth, golden midges.My mother's elder sister, Sybil, whom a cousin of my father's had married and then neglected, served in my immediate family as a kind of unpaid governess and housekeeper. Somebody told me later that she had been in love with my father, and that he had lightheartedly taken advantage of it one rainy day and forgotten it by the time the weather cleared. I was extremely fond of her, despite the rigidity-the fatal rigidity-of some of her rules. Perhaps she wanted to make of me, in the fullness of time, a better widower than my father. Aunt Sybil had pink-rimmed azure eyes and a waxen complexion. She wrote poetry. She was poetically superstitious. She said she knew she would die soon after my sixteenth birthday, and did. Her husband, a great traveler in perfumes, spent most of his time in America, where eventually he founded a firm and acquired a bit of real estate.I grew, a happy, healthy child in a bright world of illustrated books, clean sand, orange trees, friendly dogs, sea vistas and smiling faces. Around me the splendid Hotel Mirana revolved as a kind of private universe, a whitewashed cosmos within the blue greater one that blazed outside. From the aproned pot-scrubber to the flanneled potentate, everybody liked me, everybody petted me. Elderly American ladies leaning on their canes listed toward me like towers of Pisa. Ruined Russian princesses who could not pay my father, bought me expensive bonbons. He, mon cher petit papa, took me out boating and biking, taught me to swim and dive and water-ski, read to me Don Quixote and Les Mis?rables, and I adored and respected him and felt glad for him whenever I overheard the servants discuss his various lady-friends, beautiful and kind beings who made much of me and cooed and shed precious tears over my cheerful motherlessness.I attended an English day school a few miles from home, and there I played rackets and fives, and got excellent marks, and was on perfect terms with schoolmates and teachers alike. The only definite sexual events that I can remember as having occurred before my thirteenth birthday (that is, before I first saw my little Annabel) were: a solemn, decorous and purely theoretical talk about pubertal surprises in the rose garden of the school with an American kid, the son of a then celebrated motion-picture actress whom he seldom saw in the three-dimensional world; and some interesting reactions on the part of my organism to certain photographs, pearl and umbra, with infinitely soft partings, in Pichon's sumptuous La Beaut? Humaine that I had filched from under a mountain of marble-bound Graphics in the hotel library. Later, in his delightful debonair manner, my father gave me all the information he thought I needed about sex; this was just before sending me, in the autumn of 1923, to a lyc?e in Lyon (where we were to spend three winters); but alas, in the summer of that year, he was touring Italy with Mme de R. and her daughter, and I had nobody to complain to, nobody to consult.3Annabel was, like the writer, of mixed parentage: half-English, half-Dutch, in her case. I remember her features far less distinctly today than I did a few years ago, before I knew Lolita. There are two kinds of visual memory: one when you skillfully recreate an image in the laboratory of your mind, with your eyes open (and then I see Annabel in such general terms as: "honey-colored skin," "thin arms," "brown bobbed hair," "long lashes," "big bright mouth"); and the other when you instantly evoke, with shut eyes, on the dark innerside of your eyelids, the objective, absolutely optical replica of a beloved face, a little ghost in natural colors (and this is how I see Lolita).Let me therefore primly limit myself, in describing Annabel, to saying she was a lovely child a few months my junior. Her parents were old friends of my aunt's, and as stuffy as she. They had rented a villa not far from Hotel Mirana. Bald brown Mr. Leigh and fat, powdered Mrs. Leigh (born Vanessa van Ness). How I loathed them! At first, Annabel and I talked of peripheral affairs. She kept lifting handfuls of fine sand and letting it pour through her fingers. Our brains were turned the way those of intelligent European preadolescents were in our day and set, and I doubt if much individual genius should be assigned to our interest in the plurality of inhabited worlds, competitive tennis, infinity, solipsism and so on. The softness and fragility of baby animals caused us the same intense pain. She wanted to be a nurse in some famished Asiatic country; I wanted to be a famous spy.All at once we were madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly in love with each other; hopelessly, I should add, because that frenzy of mutual possession might have been assuaged only by our actually imbibing and assimilating every particle of each other's soul and flesh; but there we were, unable even to mate as slum children would have so easily found an opportunity to do. After one wild attempt we made to meet at night in her garden (of which more later), the only privacy we were allowed was to be out of earshot but not out of sight on the populous part of the plage. There, on the soft sand, a few feet away from our elders, we would sprawl all morning, in a petrified paroxysm of desire, and take advantage of every blessed quirk in space and time to touch each other: her hand, half-hidden in the sand, would creep toward me, its slender brown fingers sleepwalking nearer and nearer; then, her opalescent knee would start on a long cautious journey; sometimes a chance rampart built by younger children granted us sufficient concealment to graze each other's salty lips; these incomplete contacts drove our healthy and inexperienced young bodies to such a state of exasperation that not even the cold blue water, under which we still clawed at each other, could bring relief.Among some treasures I lost during the wanderings of my adult years, there was a snapshot taken by my aunt which showed Annabel, her parents and the staid, elderly, lame gentleman, a Dr. Cooper, who that same summer courted my aunt, grouped around a table in a sidewalk caf?. Annabel did not come out well, caught as she was in the act of bending over her chocolat glac?, and her thin bare shoulders and the parting in her hair were about all that could be identified (as I remember that picture) amid the sunny blur into which her lost loveliness graded; but I, sitting somewhat apart from the rest, came out with a kind of dramatic conspicuousness: a moody, beetle-browed boy in a dark sport shirt and well-tailored white shorts, his legs crossed, sitting in profile, looking away. That photograph was taken on the last day of our fatal summer and just a few minutes before we made our second and final attempt to thwart fate. Under the flimsiest of pretexts (this was our very last chance, and nothing really mattered) we escaped from the caf? to the beach, and found a desolate stretch of sand, and there, in the violet shadow of some red rocks forming a kind of cave, had a brief session of avid caresses, with somebody's lost pair of sunglasses for only witness. I was on my knees, and on the point of possessing my darling, when two bearded bathers, the old man of the sea and his brother, came out of the sea with exclamations of ribald encouragement, and four months later she died of typhus in Corfu.4I leaf again and again through these miserable memories, and keep asking myself, was it then, in the glitter of that remote summer, that the rift in my life began; or was my excessive desire for that child only the first evidence of an inherent singularity? When I try to analyze my own cravings, motives, actions and so forth, I surrender to a sort of retrospective imagination which feeds the analytic faculty with boundless alternatives and which causes each visualized route to fork and re-fork without end in the maddeningly complex prospect of my past. I am convinced, however, that in a certain magic and fateful way Lolita began with Annabel.I also know that the shock of Annabel's death consolidated the frustration of that nightmare summer, made of it a permanent obstacle to any further romance throughout the cold years of my youth. The spiritual and the physical had been blended in us with a perfection that must remain incomprehensible to the matter-of-fact, crude, standard-brained youngsters of today. Long after her death I felt her thoughts floating through mine. Long before we met we had had the same dreams. We compared notes. We found strange affinities. The same June of the same year (1919) a stray canary had fluttered into her house and mine, in two widely separated countries. Oh, Lolita, had you loved me thus!I have reserved for the conclusion of my "Annabel" phase the account of our unsuccessful first tryst. One night, she managed to deceive the vicious vigilance of her family. In a nervous and slender-leaved mimosa grove at the back of their villa we found a perch on the ruins of a low stone wall. Through the darkness and the tender trees we could see the arabesques of lighted windows which, touched up by the colored inks of sensitive memory, appear to me now like playing cards-presumably because a bridge game was keeping the enemy busy. She trembled and twitched as I kissed the corner of her parted lips and the hot lobe of her ear. A cluster of stars palely glowed above us, between the silhouettes of long thin leaves; that vibrant sky seemed as naked as she was under her light frock. I saw her face in the sky, strangely distinct, as if it emitted a faint radiance of its own. Her legs, her lovely live legs, were not too close together, and when my hand located what it sought, a dreamy and eerie expression, half-pleasure, half-pain, came over those childish features. She sat a little higher than I, and whenever in her solitary ecstasy she was led to kiss me, her head would bend with a sleepy, soft, drooping movement that was almost woeful, and her bare knees caught and compressed my wrist, and slackened again; and her quivering mouth, distorted by the acridity of some mysterious potion, with a sibilant intake of breath came near to my face. She would try to relieve the pain of love by first roughly rubbing her dry lips against mine; then my darling would draw away with a nervous toss of her hair, and then again come darkly near and let me feed on her open mouth, while with a generosity that was ready to offer her everything, my heart, my throat, my entrails, I gave her to hold in her awkward fist the scepter of my passion.I recall the scent of some kind of toilet powder-I believe she stole it from her mother's Spanish maid-a sweetish, lowly, musky perfume. It mingled with her own biscuity odor, and my senses were suddenly filled to the brim; a sudden commotion in a nearby bush prevented them from overflowing-and as we draw away from each other, and with aching veins attended to what was probably a prowling cat, there came from the house her mother's voice calling her, with a rising frantic note-and Dr. Cooper ponderously limped out into the garden. But that mimosa grove-the haze of stars, the tingle, the flame, the honeydew, and the ache remained with me, and that little girl with her seaside limbs and ardent tongue haunted me ever since-until at last, twenty-four years later, I broke her spell by incarnating her in another.5The days of my youth, as I look back on them, seem to fly away from me in a flurry of pale repetitive scraps like those morning snow storms of used tissue paper that a train passenger sees whirling in the wake of the observation car. In my sanitary relations with women I was practical, ironical and brisk. While a college student, in London and Paris, paid ladies sufficed me. My studies were meticulous and intense, although not particularly fruitful. At first, I planned to take a degree in psychiatry as many manqu? talents do; but I was even more manqu? than that; a peculiar exhaustion, I am so oppressed, doctor, set in; and I switched to English literature, where so many frustrated poets end as pipe-smoking teachers in tweeds. Paris suited me. I discussed Soviet movies with expatriates. I sat with uranists in the Deux Magots. I published tortuous essays in obscure journals. I composed pastiches:

Bookclub Guide

US1. 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?

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