Monday, December 1, 2008

The Confusions Caused by Reading Nabokov

Well, my confusions from reading Nabokov.

I recently read that well known work Lolita. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting. It was good. It was well written and engaged my attention (and gag reflex). And it just read like something literary. Something that has to last, because it's just too good not to be read for the next 500 years.

But I'm not sure I understood it.

Maybe I'm being dumb - seriously, I'll admit, I can be a real ditz sometimes.

Yet I feel like I didn't get what I was supposed to get out of that novel. My aunt read some of his work and said he's a pedophile. Or pederast. I forget which, but both are perverted and involve younger people, though one is biased with regards to gender. So my aunt read Lolita (and some other things) and came away with the idea that Nabokov was a pervert. And the term "Lolita" is used for a young seductress.

So was I adding things to the work to make it more palatable? Or does some reading between the lines help a person come up with the version of Lolita it currently holds in my mind?

I got the idea that Lolita was a regular teenage girl. That she had, unfortunately, fallen onto the radar of a pervert who picked a stupid pseudonym for his confession. That she initially had a crush on this man, which isn't that surprising, as he seems to be genuinely handsome, and that she was taken advantage of.

Even if she made the first move, which seems to consist of some kisses and some flirting, as an adult, Humbert Humbert should have repelled her childish advances. Right?

And there are comments in his writing that make it seem, to me, like he's not to be trusted. He claims she made the first move, but when he describes the THREE TIMES he ravaged the girl, he uses something along the lines of a child cringing. And she later keeps talking about how he raped her. And she cries every night. It seemed to me like Humbert Humbert was coloring his account to make himself look better. Not okay, just better.

It seemed to me like Ms. Haze was competing with her mother for the attention of a handsome man, and didn't actually think that her flirtation would have the results that it did. Maybe she even wanted to have sex with him, but the manner in which she acted that night in the Enchanted Hunters hotel made me think otherwise. If so, it seems she regretted it during or immediately after the consummation of any such desires.

To me.

Am I wrong? Or are there just two ways of analyzing the material present in Nabokov's book?

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