Saturday, November 6, 2010

Lolita- Iceberg of paradise

Orhan Pamuk recommended the book to me. The seeds of reading this book were sown in my head long ago when I came to know of its existence through Kubrick’s adaptation of the book. It was always at the back of my mind that I will pounce on this tigress the day I get a chance.
A few days ago I happened to come across a copy in a crossword store that I frequented in my Nasik days. I could see the book glaring at me amongst a dozen who claim to give the same dose of daze in the romance corner of the bookstore. And I would’ve bought right at that moment if the shop’s machine had accepted my debit card. But I knew that copy was mine.
A few days later while I was reading Pamuk’s Other Colors, which is another giant of a book, he talked about his love for Nabokov and how he packs Lolita and Ada, while going on a trip, as medicines.
I was amazed at the excitement this short piece of adulation filled me with. Within seconds and without even finishing that chapter I was on the street madly forcing my steps on the pavement.
Within no time I was in my bed with my Lolita.
On reading the first lines of the book I new I would be finishing it in no time. The only time when I lost interest in this book was when Lolita disappears. Lolita without Lolita is unbearable, for Humbert as well as the reader. The obvious unimportant questions that’ll spring to your mind after reading this work are:
1. What is this all about?
2. What is the point of this lunacy?
3. What purpose does it serve?
4. How can you ramble on for some 300 pgs on a subject like that?
5. How can he write about such a perverse subject with such light heart?
If any of the above questions come to your mind then you can’t quite enjoy this book. Now without trying to sell this book to you, I’ll come to my thoughts about it.
• This is a perfect, yes perfect book. Why? There couldn’t have been any other tone for the book. The self mocking, sarcastic tone in which the writer degrades himself is the only way he can try to say what he’s saying and confess, what is for all mankind, a pervert’s tale. There couldn’t have been a better premise, context or climax, which is amongst one of the best I’ve ever read. Every line is written with only one thought in mind-to glorify Lolita and to glorify Humbert’s love for her.

• Nabokov couldn’t have written this in Russian. Writing what he has written in his mother tongue would’ve made him guilty about writing it. I will try to explain it. The freedom of wandering aimlessly in an unknown city is unparallel. In your own city, you know every corner, you are too sure of every turn, you can never be lost. While creating something, this momentary loss or detachment is essential because it is only at that moment when you can come out of yourself in order to look at yourself as an outsider. In Russian, he would’ve thought his prose to be far-fetched, flowery and farce. But in English he can really let go off himself.

• Why is this thought so disturbing? That of a middle-aged widower falling for a 12 year old. I don’t know why but I didn’t find it so disturbing or perverse. This thought of not being disturbed disturbs me. It’s unimaginable that after reading her you won’t be in love with her.

• The prose is delicious. Whether it’s Humbert’s first sight of Lolita, her playing tennis, his anxiety when she disappears for 20 minutes, or the climax in which he murders Querty so cold-bloodedly, you are on the edge of your seat thinking as to how he can write a better scene than the previous one. He never falls short. And that’s when you begin to marvel at Nabokov’s command over an adopted language. This thrill of bumping into finer jugglery of words alone will make you read this book to its last page. And you’ll never, never for a line, be disappointed.

• The afterword sums up the work so well that there’s no need for anyone to explain anything. I don’t understand why Nabokov wrote it, because I don’t expect someone like him justifying the existence of his work or its value. I guess Nabokov wants us to know that he is, after all, a human.

• I can’t assume this work to be all fiction as Nabokov calls it. How can someone go on with such great detail in so thought out words about anyone but himself? This is the only thing that puzzles me about this work.

• Lolita can be and should be read only for reason, the only reason for reading fiction, for the sheer beauty of its prose. It’s a madman’s love affair with English language like those pangs of extreme emotions you feel when you look at an unknown face in a magical land that can be a bus stop or a train, a sidewalk or a park.


Arnav said...

Came here through Jai Arjun Singh's blog, and what a coincidence! Lolita is one of my favorite works of fiction, and loved seeing another person being so enthusiastically fan-boyish about it. 'Delicious' is the word to describe how it's been written. I used to think of it as some cheesy sex-obsessed book in the Harold Robbins genre till we did this book as part of our curriculum in a Humanities course during my engineering. And boy was I in for a surprise!

You might want to read an annotated version to figure out all the hidden treasures in the book (if you haven't done that already).

Raza said...

thanks for coming!!
yeah i would love to read that annotated version but i like to have my own interpretations about stuff i the introduction of "the world is what it is" patrick french says "its impossible to really know why a writer puts a particular word at a particular place, what he means by it"
i think its very true!!

Captain Subtext said...

Believe in the same theory, but there are some books that have such hidden gems that it's worth reading with annotations. I would never have understood Nabokov's greatness if I hadn't done it as part of a literature course. Other examples that come to mind are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Ulysses.

Interesting blog, btw.