I did not want to like this book. In fact, even before I began, I held a lot of preconceptions regarding Lolita.
I truly fought a good fight with Mr. Nabokov, but he wore down my resistance very early on and took me for quite a ride with H. H. The writing was so good as to take the reader deep into the mind of the protagonist and while he loses touch with his reality, so too does the reader. In Humbert’s few lucid moments, the reader has the opportunity to detest him, but instead sympathizes with the pedophilic kidnapper, surely a sign that both writer and reader have fallen, and fallen quite far into the depths of madness.
That a writer could so engross the reader to commiserate with such an unlikeable character speaks volumes of Nabokov’s talent. Add to that, the fact that English is not his first language and one further appreciates his abilities.
If I had an opportunity to meet Vladimir, I’m not sure I would want to, as I fear, not that he were a madman like Humbert, but rather that I’d possibly be disappointed. I have such respect for him as a writer, yet I’m afraid he would have some of the traits I’ve attributed to (James) Joyce such as snobbery and an overall condescending air.
Although this was only book #4 out of 100, this has now become #1 on my list. My rating for Lolita is a 10/10.
Check out Modern Library’s 100 Best Novels to see the entire list.