"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."

Oh, Lolita. Is there anyone these days who doesn't know the general story? Middle-aged Humbert Humbert becomes obsessed with twelve-year-old Dolores Haze. Thankfully, few literate people disagree with the statement that Lolita is a brilliant work of twentieth-century fiction. I find myself at a loss for words in reviewing this book, if only because I feel like so much has already been said. The language is beautiful and the story is riveting. The repulsion one feels for Humbert's taste is complicated by his deviously charming writing and Lolita's self-awareness. One might find an untrustworthy narrator to be a chore at times, but here, it is nothing short of fascinating.

Above all, what struck me with this reading of Lolita is just how masterful Nabokov's command of the English language really is... I found myself savoring every sentence and looking up the definitions of words of which I knew the meanings... not because I thought I was wrong or that he would be more precise, but that there were certain nuances to be gained. I spent time reflecting on certain details that would crop up (for instance, Humbert's obsessive cataloguing of Lolita's height and weight) or various academic interpretations (the question of this book representing the corruption of young America by old Europe or old Europe's downfall brought about by young America), but really, it's the language that I kept coming back to again and again. Here is a wordsmith, here is a man who knows how to turn a phrase. Breath-taking at every turn.

If you haven't read it yet, I shall not pressure you. There will come a time in your life when you finally feel compelled to pick this up and you'll understand the awesome power of Nabokov's language in painting such an fascinating story.

No comments: