Jul 18, 2011

Thoughts on re-reading Lolita

People make a big hue and cry about retaining their ‘inner child’ even in their adult years. I think it’s a tad hypocritical because the same people crucify you when you give in to the first instinct of childhood – self fulfillment. Frankly, they are not wrong, just hypocrites as I mentioned. You cannot replicate a time gone by, you cannot refeel impulses felt long ago amidst adult roles and responsibilities. And if you do, more shame to you. 

To discover romance in later years, to experience yet again the mad thumping of the heart as you see the beloved’s no. flash across the phone screen, is supposed to be a blessing. It is not, it cannot be, for it is a subversion of nature and you can’t subvert nature without disastrous results. Young love is always tinged with innocence – innocence about the ways of the world, innocence about how unkind people can really be, innocent that first love soon gives way to last rites. To attempt to either duplicate or even genuinely experience it later in life is a tragic perversity of the kind we see in ‘Lolita.’ We love during our youth, and spend our later years trying to remember what it felt like. 

Towards the end of the book, Humbert is walking along the sea when he hears the sound of some children playing. He says, "Reader!  What I heard was but the melody of children at play, nothing but that, and so limpid was the air that within this vapor of blended voices, majestic and minute, remote and magically near, frank and divinely enigmatic–one could hear now and then, as if released, an almost articulate spurt of vivid laughter…and then I knew that the hopelessly poignant thing was not Lolita’s absence from my side, but the absence of her voice from the concord."

Not only has he lost her forever, he is the single reason she has lost the 'vivid laughter'. You cannot appreciate a writer like Nobokov if you fail to grasp the air of elegiac mourning in these lines; of a regret coming too late. 

In succumbing to an absurd infatuation in his adulthood, Humbert perverts the capacity for 'love superior' which resides in all our hearts. Though he’s often despicable in Nobokov’s work, he also arouses our sympathy. Here is a man who has been chasing a dream (nymphets) all his life and who, when he realises his time is running out, attempts to translate that dream into reality through coercion and murder. It is not only a betrayal of trust, but also a betrayal of his purest instinct for love. Humbert's tragedy is that he cannot differentiate between a futile obsession and the centering of 'love superior' in his life.

Some dreams must not be chased, some dreams are simply meant to be held close for they define the people we become. Nobokov’s novel is about these dreams.

"I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita. "

Lolita by Vladimir Nobokov.

1 comment:

D said...


You are being too Freudian about this! Today, Humbert would be behind bars beating a child molestation rap. :)