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Thursday, August 21, 2008

Book Review: Lolita

Author: Vladimir Nabokov

Phew! I finally finished reading this book... took me almost 2 full months, not becoz I had no time but 'coz it's one of the weirdest books I've read so far. I was determined though, to read the book till the last page just so that I dont end up missing out on something. I've read a lot of good reviews on this book so I'm not going to say it's bad - but it just wasn't my type or maybe I just didnt know how to approach the book! I ought to accept that I had a tough time reading it....

English is not english when it's written by Vladimir Nabokov. This is the first time that I couldn't grasp too much from a book written in english :) It's like learning a new language. It reminded me of my GRE/GMAT preps when I used to go thru the huge word list and wonder who on earth would really use those long-complex words! Now I know who does ;-) But I really appreciate the choice of words that the author uses. If you go dig it up in a dictionary, you'll realize that no other word could describe what he means, in a better way. It's that appropriate!

The book is in a first person narrative. One of the weirdest stories I've ever read. Not acceptable on moral grounds; I just couldn't digest it. It's about Humbert Humbert, an adult-middle-aged guy who is obsessed with nymphets. He goes as a lodger in one of the lonely widow's house where he gets attracted to her 12 yr old daughter - Lolita. He marries the widow so that he gets to stay close to Lolita. After his wife's death, he seduces his 12 year old step-daughter and has an "affair" or to be precise, a sexual relationship with her for nearly 2-3 yrs.

The author does know that such relationships are not acceptable by rational human beings and he brings out this acceptance through Humbert's character. He describes very well, how Humbert's and Lolita's conscience are at work...thru all this, and more importantly what effect this whole thing has on young Lolita's mind and her life. Due to the subject matter, the book was very difficult to read at times - all boundaries of ethical behavior crossed..

The story is definitely compelling and something that can really give you goose bumps, but I wish it was written in a simpler way so that I could understand and appreciate it better! But as of now, I guess I wouldn't really recommend the book ... unless, of course you are someone who is experimental in literature and wants to read a book that is very differently written!

The challenge list -
1. Sister of my heart- Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (India)
2. The Reluctant Fundamentalist - Mohsin Hamid (Pakistan)
3. A thousand splendid suns - Khalid Hosseini (Afghanistan)
4. The Bastard of Istanbul - Elif Shafak (Turkey/Armenia)
5. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov (Russia)
6. To kill a mocking bird - Harper Lee (USA)
7. The Conservationist- Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)
8. One hundred years of solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Columbia)
9. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak (Australia)

3 comments:

chiranth said...

...such relationships are not acceptable by rational human beings.

Do you mean rational or social beings?

I haven't read the book myself, but it seems like Humbert was reacting to his attraction to this girl, which is quite a rational thing to do. Now acceptance to society is a slightly different topic.

Ramya said...

hey.. i just finished lolita as well.. for my classics challenge.. i must agree with you that this was easily the toughest book that i have had to read.. not because of the way it was written but rather because of the subject matter.. what humbert did to the kid was unbearable... and totally unforgivable.. i was so sickened by the book.. but i liked nabokov.. i am going to read some other book by him before making my decision..:) will keep you updated when i write my review for lolita..:)

Pratima said...

@Chi
I do mean 'rational' human beings coz what Humbert did was not just unacceptable in the society( though this really doesn't matter much)but definitely not acceptable on moral grounds. Not at any point in the book will u feel that what he did might be ok..from his POV. From the review it might seem like it was just his attraction to the girl, but its not the case. He is kind of a maniac, knows exactly what he is doing is wrong but has no fears...u have to see how his conscience is at work, its unbearable!! I wud have had to give away the entire plot to put in more details here :)

@Ramya
Completely agree with u on the subject matter - Waiting to read your review on it :) But I guess I dont have the guts to pick up one more Nabokov's book!! ;-)