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. – page 1
Recognise these opening lines? The first paragraph of Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 classic, Lolita, is so famous it’s become almost clichéd. It perfectly sets the tone for this sumptuous masterpiece.
Lolita is just as scandalous in light of contemporary perspectives as it was 60 years ago. Scholar Humbert Humbert marries Mrs Haze to be closer to the object of his romantic obsession, her 12-year-old daughter Dolores. After Mrs Haze’s death, he becomes Dolores’ guardian and lover – a shameful secret at the mercy of her dangerous mood swings.
Although pedophilia is unforgivable in our society, Lolita inspires great empathy. Humbert Humbert is our first person narrator. He articulates the minutiae of his mind’s inner workings with poetic precision and sensitive wit. It’s impossible to refuse empathy to someone so lucid and relatable.
If for nothing else, read Lolita for the language. This romance is a string of visceral scenes that won’t fade from my memory. Join the club and swoon over the lyricism of Nabokov’s words. Open your heart to its beauty and expand your mind for its perspectives – Lolita is a must-read.
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