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Thread: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

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    United States Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    The author once wrote:

    I may, if I am lucky, tap the deep pathos that pertains to all authentic art because of the breach between its eternal values and the sufferings of a muddled world.
    Last edited by liehtzu; 15-Dec-2009 at 02:36.
    The maker of kitsch does not create inferior art, he is not an incompetent or a bungler, he cannot be evaluated by aesthetic standards; rather, he is ethically depraved, a criminal willing radical evil. - Hermann Broch

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    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    i couldn't have endorsed the great russian any better -- oops i mean american any better.

    the great russian...i mean american, the great american always intrigues me to no end and with respect to lolita the barber at kasdim is my current preoccupation. the great american writes that that scene where the barber speaks of his dead son exacted such a toll as to warrant his move to incinerate the manuscript.

    edmund wilson objected to lolita and i suspect he did so on moral grounds. but the muses beckoned and the great american obliged. art exacts a toll, the least of which is friendship. and yet...the cuckoo and the rooster are cuckooing and roosting i suspect

  3. #3

    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    Lolita is such a marvellous novel. I was spellbound for three days when I read it. The prose, the prose, the prose... Martin Amis' essay on Lolita, collected in The War Against Clich?, is a pretty original and intriguing response to the novel.

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    United States Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    Liehtzu,
    Kudos on an excellent write-up of Nabokov's Lolita. I enjoyed the excerpts you included. To be honest, this novel left me somewhat cold when I read it about ten years ago. I must've been sixteen or so, and it just wasn't the right time. Nabokov is a phenomenal author, and, although the subject matter of this book bothered me a bit at the time I read it, I don't believe it would at this point. Hearing the comments you and Morten make about it (will check out the essay you mention, Morten) may well serve as just the impetus I need to read Lolita again. In addition, it was on the 50 favorites books lists of a few people at the forum whose tastes I very much admire, among them Lionel, Mirabell, and Thomas Saliot. I've asked nnyhav about which Nabokov novels I ought to read next (I am a big fan of Nabokov, regardless of my prior opinion of Lolita), and he's been wonderful regarding recommendations. However, I'm now thinking I ought to go back to where I began--that is, Lolita.

    Thanks again for the write-up, liehtzu. A person can always count on you to do a thorough job on both your reviews and your threads! Really great work.

    Holiday cheers,
    Titania
    Last edited by titania7; 30-Dec-2008 at 11:25.
    "All men have the same defect: they wait to live, for they have not the courage of each instant.
    Why not invest enough passion in each moment to make it an eternity?" ~E. M. Cioran

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    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    I got The Annotated Lolita as a belated Christmas present a few days ago and I can't wait for my exam session to be over so I can finally delve into it. I've only read Lolita once and that was almost two months ago but already I feel the need to return to it and try piecing together my impressions without being completely overwhelmed.

  6. #6

    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    This book is really interesting, but the vulgarity of the book is something we must reconsider.

    While it interests the reader and has the stuffs that can move any reader but it has something pornos and we can not be pretentious to ignore it.

    Vulgarity notwithstanding, the book is matchless.

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    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    It is not pornography.

    Pornography is something that deliberately sets out to arouse the reader – and I do not think that that was Nabokov's intent or that, however uncomfortable the subject matter, there is anything of that nature in the book. And I've yet to meet anyone who was sexually aroused by it?

    Were you sexually aroused by it, Haribol Acharya?

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    United States Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    Sybarite,
    In regard to your assessment of pornography, I agree wholeheartedly. And I think it's very important to make these distinctions. Don't you? Lolita is a work of classic literature. It is not pornography. You are not alone in saying that you were not aroused by it. I didn't find it the least bit titillating.


    Miercuri,
    The Annotated Lolita is on my to-be-purchased list .


    ~Titania
    "All men have the same defect: they wait to live, for they have not the courage of each instant.
    Why not invest enough passion in each moment to make it an eternity?" ~E. M. Cioran

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    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    Quote Originally Posted by titania7 View Post
    Sybarite,
    In regard to your assessment of pornography, I agree wholeheartedly. And I think it's very important to make these distinctions. Don't you? Lolita is a work of classic literature. It is not pornography. You are not alone in saying that you were not aroused by it. I didn't find it the least bit titillating.


    Miercuri,
    The Annotated Lolita is on my to-be-purchased list .


    ~Titania
    Titania, I think that there is an overuse of the word 'pornography' these days ? a little as there is an overuse of the word 'fascism' to describe anyone who, for instance, tells us to live more healthily.

    It's worth stressing here that there's nothing wrong, in my opinion, with pornography ? with a text or film that sets out deliberately to arouse. There's nothing wrong with sex and with arousal and with thinking about sex. And written porn can be literary.

    But I haven't seen anything in Lolita to suggest that Nabokov was deliberately trying to arouse anyone. I don't think that there is a single scene involving the child that is even mildly erotic, to be honest. The eroticism is HH's mind. The sensuality in the novel comes quite simply from Nabokov's stunning prose.

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    United States Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    Quote Originally Posted by Sybarite
    Titania, I think that there is an overuse of the word 'pornography' these days – a little as there is an overuse of the word 'fascism' to describe anyone who, for instance, tells us to live more healthily.
    Sybarite, I absolutely and completely concur with what you say. In general, I suspect our society, at large, enjoys attaching labels to things and people. Whenever something is outside a person's comfort zone, it makes it easier to accept it if he or she can find a name to put on it.

    At least we have come a long way since the days when books such as Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover were banned.

    Quote Originally Posted by Sybarite
    It's worth stressing here that there's nothing wrong, in my opinion, with pornography – with a text or film that sets out deliberately to arouse. There's nothing wrong with sex and with arousal and with thinking about sex. And written porn can be literary.
    Written porn is not something I personally have an interest in, but that doesn't mean it can't be literary. Who am I to say it isn't? I haven't read any pornographic books, aside from excerpts from The Story of O online (in regard to this, I was a bit too stunned by the book's content to make conjectures regarding its literary merit ).

    Quote Originally Posted by Sybarite
    But I haven't seen anything in Lolita to suggest that Nabokov was deliberately trying to arouse anyone. I don't think that there is a single scene involving the child that is even mildly erotic, to be honest. The eroticism is HH's mind. The sensuality in the novel comes quite simply from Nabokov's stunning prose.
    No, there isn't any eroticism in the book. Only someone who was determined to find the scenes between Lolita and HH erotic would perceive them that way. As I'm fond of saying, if we look hard enough, we're capable of finding something that isn't even there--and that is true when it comes to both life and literature.

    I do think there can be something inherently sensual in the way certain authors write. I just finished reading a novel by the Hungarian writer, Gyula Krudy. Although there was scarcely any sex in the book, the words Krudy uses and the images these poetic words bring to mind make the work profoundly sensual.

    ~Titania
    "All men have the same defect: they wait to live, for they have not the courage of each instant.
    Why not invest enough passion in each moment to make it an eternity?" ~E. M. Cioran

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    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    Quote Originally Posted by Sybarite View Post
    The eroticism is HH's mind. The sensuality in the novel comes quite simply from Nabokov's stunning prose.
    Indeed and this why none of the two film adaptations have managed to capture the essence of the book. Kubrick's version approaches HH from a tragi-comical point of view only, whereas Adrian Lynne's film overcharges the sensual aspect of the novel (which is, as you have pointed out, Nabokov's majestic use of words). The reader must be aware of HH's unreliability and must not take for granted his perception of Lolita as a nymphete.
    In film however, it is impossible for director not to take sides.

  12. #12

    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    Preface had a question: "Do senses make sense?"
    I carried that question and thought over it all the way till the end of the book. It is a story of love, the love so wrongly placed, so wrong, never justifiable, so destructive, so one-sided, inevitably ended tragically for both Lolita and Humbert. Someone said it is a symbol for a young America ravaged by a Europe. But, for me, it was a foremost tragic love story. Nabokov's masterly prose made me in the end to sympathize with him though in a very small degree.

    Do senses make sense?

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    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    Great book, but my third Nabokov reading, after Ada or Ardor and Pale Fire and found it a bit disappointing, not as great as Ada nor as original as Pale Fire.

    Pornographic well yes I think so, but very ironic too. I think that Nabokov uses pornography and humour and morally disgasting and egoist characters and many other things to keep distant with what he's talking about, to avoid being sentimental.

    Great book but no Ada or Ardor.

    I likes Kubrick's film with James Mason (one of best Kubrick films I think) but didn't see the other more recent version.

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    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    Pynchon reminds me a lot of Nabokov, same way of being pornographic and funny and humorous when things get desperate

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    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    Finding anything pornographic in LOLITA is a bit like gleaning the movie BAISE-MOI for sexy scenes. The entire framework is so full of the repellent and pathetic as to nullify any possibility of titillation. PALE FIRE's streets ahead though. Why does some sort of age-inappropriate sexual passion seem to raise its head in both books, though?

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    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    It may be my faulty memory but I didn't find Lolita in the least pornographic or erotic. I think Humbert presents himself as both a ridiculous--isn't there a kind of self-loathing in his presentation of self-- and romantic figure. Doesn't he hunt down Quilty not only for spiriting Lolita away but for revealing himself to himself in such an ugly way? Isn't Quilty, the pornographer his mirror image and isn't this why he really wants to kill Quilty?

    In fact, it is the scene of Frank Langella as Quilty, naked except for a bathrobe flapping behind him as he runs mercilessly tatooing the floor through his Hollywood home with an enraged Humbert on his tail that I remember from Adrian Lyne's movie. God, that is a funny and horrifying scene. I think Jeremy Irons portrays the feeling tone of the Humbert better than James Mason. I can see him staring up at Lolita with his head upon her lap and he cuts both a ridiculous and romantic figure. I never found James Mason to be either, he is desperate but not ridiculous. But this may be why Kubrick's Lolita is the better film. Kubrick cuts motivations and through lines down in order to accommodate the running time and emotional bandwidth of a movie.

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    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    Ah, but it was Peter Sellers as Quilty who stole the Kubrick film. Other than his magnificent voice, James Mason was never a Humbert Humbert. He just did not look the part. Miscast as far as I was concerned. And Sue Lyon as Lolita was nowhere near Carroll Baker in Baby Doll, even if the Baby Doll charcter was a bit older than Lolita. Come to think of it, Karl Malden might have made a better Humbert Humbert.
    Last edited by Clarissa; 03-Oct-2009 at 18:58. Reason: typo

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    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    perhaps is my memory faulty too!!...but I remember Lolita as pornographic meaning obscene (and not as much as other later works by nabokov) but certainly not as intended to arouse us.

    In Kubrick's film I found Mason ridiculous as well as desperate. One of the reasons why I haven't tried Lyne's film is that I can't stand Jeremy Irons...but perhaps I should forget about it, and forget all the other awfull films by Lyne and give this an oportunity!!

    About the self-loathing/romantic representation of HH in the novel, well I think that HH was that kind of Nabokov's hero: disgusting, unfortunate. If he's self-loathing is only because he anknowledges himself as a tragic hero, but he loaths much more all the rest of the world. Same kind of tragic hero as Van in Ada or Ardor.

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    Default Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    Quote Originally Posted by Manuel76 View Post
    I can't stand Jeremy Irons..
    How can anyone dislike Jeremy Irons? Personally, I find him flawless. And in this case, as others have pointed it out, he does make a much more believable Humber Humbert. You should really give Lyne's film a chance at some point.

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    United States Re: Vladimir Nabokov: Lolita

    My own take on the novel, of which I am a fan. I was more taken by the ability to write so darn well in a second (or third) language:

    Having confined myself to reading non-Western authors this year, those familiar with Nabokov and Lolita may question my pick. After all, the book was written in English and it takes place in the Westernest of all Western cultures: the U.S. of A. Rest assured, however, that I am?or was?unschooled in Nabokovism. Only after reading it did I discover it took place here, and only upon tangential research did I find Nabokov had written this book in English, not his mother Russian.

    In all likelihood I have nothing new or interesting to contribute to the discussion of this book. Its racy theme and spurts of nymphet ecstasy likely linger in the minds of those who have trod these pages before me. As a novel of unabashed pedophilia, and even incest (?Lolita, with an incestuous thrill, I had grown to regard as my child?) it is distinct. As such it is a sensational read, akin to watching a train wreck in slow motion. Humbert Humbert?s forthrightness about his feelings, passions and miscreant deeds make this novel captivating and absorbing. He said what!? He did what!? Turn the page? Because H.H. neither hides nor obscures his devious thoughts and deeds, the reader is disarmed?an unusual and thrilling accomplishment not easily performed through literature.

    So I decline to discuss further the novel itself. It?s a phenomenal work; I am neither the first nor the last to make that claim.

    Instead, the use of a second (and third) tongue merits a note of attention. Nabokov?s word choice was so precise and vivid?a mastery of the English language on display in each and every paragraph. (I even found myself running to the dictionary from time to time). The smatterings of French throughout are, no doubt, just as well informed as his English. But because I do not speak French, this heavy reliance on the mellifluous language was frustrating. What gem am I missing when H.H. slips in some naughty looking French turn of phrase?

    I recall the same annoyance in reading A Sentimental Journey by Laurence Stern, a novel glazed with the same French cream. But at least Nabokov and Stern stuck with just one third language. Their bilingual flourishes were not as pretentious and frustrating as Umberto Eco who, in Foucault?s Pendulum, peppered his rambling novel with French, German, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic?only the latter of which was, curiously enough, given a footnote translation (Because Arabic is base? Not a language of the cultured?). Is it too much to ask for a little assistance when two or three languages are used in a novel? Yet I digress?

    Why write in a tongue not your own? On the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, author Ha Jin recalled the horror and despair he felt after the June 4th crackdown. In protest of the brutal actions of his home government (Ha was in the U.S. at the time) he vowed to write only in English. Writing in the New York Times Ha says:

    That was when I started to think about staying in America and writing exclusively in English, even if China was my only subject, even if Chinese was my native tongue. It took me almost a year to decide to follow the road of Conrad and Nabokov and write in a language that was not my own. I knew I might fail. I was also aware that I was forgoing an opportunity: the Chinese language had been so polluted by revolutionary movements and political jargon that there was great room for improvement.

    Yet if I wrote in Chinese, my audience would be in China and I would therefore have to publish there and be at the mercy of its censorship. To preserve the integrity of my work, I had no choice but to write in English.

    Political motives, there?s a good reason. And Nabokov? Sure, politics played a role in his choice to write in English too?after all, his literature was censored and banned in Russia. But for me Lolita is a romance. Not between Humbert Humbert and Lolita, but between Nabokov and English. It is a passion for that object so hard to obtain, especially teasing when one?s fingertips can almost touch it. His play with English is nothing short of lovemaking (writing), writhing and barely hidden beneath the sheets (the story).

    Writing in 1956, a year after Lolita?s publication, Nabokov recalled a review in which an American critic ?suggested that Lolita was the record of my love affair with the romantic novel. The substitution of ?English language? for ?romantic novel? would make this elegant formula more correct.?

    Much like Humbert Humbert showed signs of wanting to get caught in his romantic affair, Nabokov reveals his scintillating, titillating affair with another love, the English language; yet it is the audience who gains so much by sharing in the pleasure without the agony of courtship.

    ?Freedom for the moment is everything.? ? H.H.

    Originally posted here: Quick review: Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita | The Mantle

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