Monday, 10 December 2012
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.
She was Lo, plain Lo in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.
The first lines of Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel Lolita immediately transfer the reader to a different world - the perverse, conflicted, tormented, and socially unnacceptable world of Humbert Humbert. Far from pornography, as some little souls may claim, Lolita explores the demons and temptations a 30 something man has to fight to restrain his passion. His passion for young girls (12-14). Not all of them, oh no. Just the nymphet ones. According to most dictionaries, a nymphet is "an attractive and sexually mature young girl". Humbert's passion, started as an innocent childish love, transforms into a driving force. Sexual desire (and especially unsatisfied one) shapes one's life no matter how we might try to ignore it. I am suddenly reminded of Michael Fassbender's disturbing performance in "Shame". For those of you who haven't seen it, well Fassbender's character is a sexual maniac. His desire to have sex anywhere and all the time affects his personal relationships, his work performance and every every other part of his life. Just like Humbert Humbert, though, he is extremely good at hiding it.
Oh, isn't Humbert Humbert quite the charmerer and the deceiver? In order to get closer to his beloved Lolita he marries her mother. The old, fat widow Charlotte Haze doesn't even suspect Humbert's hidden agenda. And then one day, when she is usefully eliminated by mere chance, Humbert's way towards Lolita (and her pants) is set clear.
Is Lolita innocent? Can we blame her? That question tormented me as I followed Humbert and Lolita's road trip across the USA. I guess no definite answer can be given. Yes, she was tempting him. Yes, she was being playful and presumptious. Yes, she was sitting on his knees, kissing him, showing parts of her body here and there. But and there is a big but, she was a child. She was supposed to be protected and taken care of. She doesn't bear responsibility for her actions. On the other hand, Humber Humbert does. His passion towards Lolita, however wrong socially it may be, has a far more negative effect in the long-term. It destroys her life irrevocably. Can we blame the girl? I can't. On the same note, can we blame Humbert? I can't either.
For many (and for me including) the novel is a bit disturbing. The parts describing Humbert's infatuation with little girls (and various parts of their body) made me flush read and look both sides, as if someone could actually see what I was reading. Humbert's sexual arousal and dreams are portrayed with such vividness that I felt I was walking through his mind. More than that, I even felt I was the one infatuated with little girls (oh, such is Nabokov's power). However, Lolita, I repeat, is not a pornography. Nor it is based on Nabokov's life (I read that bulshit somewhere). It is a mere recollection of a man's life, ruined by his sexuality. Humbert Humbert was not a pedophile. He was a man in love, just the wrong type of love. His sufferings, together with Lolita's destroyed life, make the novel a powerful insight into our devils and our angels, into what drives us to fall and into desires that ruin lifes.