Any novel, film or piece of art that is mired in controversy falls into one of two categories. Either the work is genuinely shocking or the controversy is ridiculously overblown. Sadly, whichever of the two a piece falls under, the story tends to become more about the controversy than whatever the work was about in the first place.
I went into Lolita knowing little about the plot rather than the obvious controversial points. It is a novel about a man in love with an underage girl. Having now read it, I must admit I feel the book falls most assuredly into the overblown category. In fact the two points on which I thought the controversy was based simply don’t seem to exist.
Yes, the main character is a paedophile but I do not feel he is ever presented as a character we are made to sympathise with. Certainly he is a witty and occasionally charming man, but I don’t feel we are ever presented with Humbert Humbert as a likable person. Even the character himself says repeatedly how deplorable his actions are.
Also, the novel is not gratuitous, in fact, even after H.H. and Lolita finally do enter into a sexual relationship, it is passed over in a sentence and Humbert instead describes in great detail the year long road trip the two embark on afterwards.
A novel with this subject matter was always going to ruffle feathers, however, the most controversial thing about the novel that I can find is that it is oddly unclear what Nabokov I trying to tell us. The book doesn’t come across as particularly pro or anti paedophile and leaves the reader to make their own choices.
Overall I simply found this book boring. The writing style is very dense and I enjoyed it at the beginning, as the novel progressed however I grew weary. Also, I understand that Nabokov is writing is his second language but a large percentage of the dialogue is in English so unbelievable that it borders on unreadable.
Overall, I simply didn’t like this book and struggled to make it to the end. A book so weighed down by that surrounds it that it is truly disappointing to discover so unimpressive a book underneath.