I don’t think it has ever taken me this long to read a book. I just didn’t feel sucked into it. The storyline was repulsive to me. But it’s also a book that has made me think about writing and reading a lot.
The story itself… It’s not my cup of tea. The main character Humbert likes young girls – stemming from his adolescence. And it is hard to digest the way he talks about admiring girls. But the way Nabokov writes and how he portrays the plot is phenomenal.
I guess someone has to write even about pedophilia. And from the pedophile’s perspective. Nabokov was exceptional at portraying it as something even romantic and pure when it is anything but.
The perversion of the idea that an older man is deeply in love and intimate with a 12-year-old was something that made me keep putting the book on hold. It’s hard to get over that and push through it.
But the way he tells the story is something to marvel. Without a doubt it is magnificent. It was enlightening for me. Writing about something the large majority of people should and do reject and detest is courageous. And all stories need to be told – the good and bad, the pretty and ugly. There is a duality of beauty and ugliness in the world. And therefore, those themes should be present in the literature as well. Writers mustn’t neglect something uncomfortable for the sake of creating a prettier and more polished version of reality. That is not what the world is.
When I was reading about the trips they take – to freeze in time his affection and her attention – I kept thinking about how an author gathers information about the locations and details of the towns if he or she has never been there. And years ago. When I was writing my book set in New York, I had the Internet at my disposal. And I had known a lot of details from films and other media. But imagine living decades ago and writing about a foreign country. It must have been a long and tiresome process.
My favourite part of the novel was the epilogue where Vladimir Nabokov explains the writing process and what he wanted to achieve. He also talks about the rejection he faced when pitching the book to publishers because they thought the novel was inappropriate. It was interesting to read the writer explain himself and elaborate on the book. I felt submersed into his writing process.
And I admit, it’s hard to bite through the bits of him describing his admiration and love for Lolita. But it’s easy to praise the way he writes about it. All in all, what I will remember from the novel is Nabokov’s craft. But I will not read it again.