LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov


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Nabokov is not unknown here. Pain (reviewed p. 14-1957) had a good press and a discriminating reading public. Conclusive Evidence, an autobiographical segment, had great charm and a certain satiric humor in its recall. But Lolita -- to judge by the fan-fare and shocked whisperings of the grapevine -- will make him famous- or infamous- according to the market. Some may seek to assess it as an allegory; to this reader this seems far-fetched and a transparent sort of evasion of what might more aptly be termed as a fictionalized panel of Kraft-Ebing, handled with a tenuously balanced self flagellation and a wryly clusive kind of humor. The subject is an unpalatable one:- the ungovernable, torturing passion of a middle aged sensualist for little girls, nymphets he calls them. A Frenchman, he comes to America, trying to run away from himself; he is lured to a New England community because of a dream of an enigmatic nymphet -- and finds himself in the trammels of an impossibly involved and tortured affair. His story is told in the form of a confession-published after the perpetrator's death in prison- a confession that traces his perversion back to a passionate interlude in early childhood, through various attempts on a relatively normal plane of passion, to a minute exploration of his fixation on the child Lolita, a spoiled, selfish, ruthless little egotist, out for what she can get. The tale of their wander-year, as they switch across the highways of America, with one night stands in countless motels, appals the reader in its utterly soulless conception of the country and its people. Nothing of beauty or sanity emerges. It is too a horrifying portrait of a Joyeur, whose twisted amorality is explored in intimate detail. That a book like this could be written- published here sold, presumably over the counters, leaves one questioning the ethical and moral standards. I don't agree that it has a titillating fascination that will lead any reader entry- as some feel. I do think there is a place for the exploration of abnormalities, that does not lie in the public domain. Any librarian surely will question this for anything but the closed shelves. Any bookseller should be very sure that he knows in advance that he is selling very literate pornography.
Pub Date: Aug. 18th, 1958
ISBN: 0679410430
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1958


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