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donderdag 15 januari 2009

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Remarkable, but not touching a nerve.

Lolita is the story about the forbidden love of an older man for a thirteen year old girl. The main character Humbert Humbert is obsessed with young girls he refers to as “nymphets”, or sexually attractive girls between the age of nine and thirteen. The whole history is narrated as a confession to the jury of his trial and gradually builds towards the main reason for his downfall. Although Humbert himself clearly evolves during his narrative, the person that changes the most is the little girl, Dolores Haze. She grows from a victim towards a woman who clearly has full control over her young life. The damage that Humbert causing is killing the girl in many cruel ways, but Humbert is completely ignorant and blinded by his uncontrollable obsession.

Although Lolita is far from an endorsement of paedophilia, it is also not the dramatic and tragic eye-opener to the problem. Nowhere in the book do you get the feeling that it is a realistic view on the problem. The character of Humbert is, apart from a rather spineless nitwit, also very unconvincing in motivating his actions or even his forbidden urge. It feels as if he actually is a scientist analysing his own behaviour, without any personal involvement. Although the actions that he takes are in fact extremely cruel to the subject of his desires, it never really gets the reader involved or touched. The strongest feeling that comes out of the book is cynicism. The view on American society that Nabokov depicts is much more interesting than the story of Humberts love for nymphets. The tragicomedy is strongest when Humbert gets into a mode of paranoia and deconstruction. At that point the character evaluates his own morality and comes to a conclusion that is a rather powerful denouement to a not evenly as strong character study. Lolita is a novel that has it's merit, but fails to really touch a nerve.

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