Today, the work of Vladimir Nabokov is perceived as a classic of world literature. Many of his works are filmed and do not leave the theater stages of the world. It is hard to believe that the writer was not known for a long time in his homeland. In America, scandalous fame came to Nabokov as the author of the "pornographic" Lolita.
Background of the novel "Lolita"
The novel by Nabokov, which brought fame to the writer, has a long background. The first twelve chapters of the future “Lolita” were written by the author in 1946 under the title “Kingdom by the Sea”. In his letters, he wrote that he was working on an essay about a man who loved little girls. Soon he postponed this work and returned to it only in 1949.
According to the writer, the novel was written intermittently, very slowly. A couple of times the author nearly burned a draft. But the thought stopped that the spirit of an unwritten book would haunt him for the rest of his days. In 1954, completing the novel "Lolita", he began to look for publishers. Attempts to publish a book in America ended in complete failure - it was rejected by four publishers, who motivated their refusal by the fact that they would be sent to jail for publishing this novel.
One of the friends of the writer admitted that this novel is “the prose of the highest standard”, but it turned out to be outright published. Nabokov contacted several other publishing houses, but everywhere he was refused - everyone was afraid of a scandalous trial.
Desperate to publish the Lolita novel in the USA, Vladimir Nabokov sent the manuscript to a Paris publishing house. The reputation of this was doubtful, but his head, after reading Lolita, felt that the novel was to become the greatest work of modern literature. The manuscript was immediately sent to the set and published in 1955.
Until a scandal broke out around Lolita in the English press, neither critics nor readers showed much attention to the novel. The heated debate of famous writers made the novel such an advertisement, which the author of "Lolita" could not even dream of. English readers five thousand copies of the book instantly sold out.
Soon, seeping through customs, the novel appeared in America. Prices for a semi-legal book, secretly brought from France, jumped at times. One after another, notes and reviews began to appear in the press. In total, Lolita Nabokov received about two hundred and fifty responses. The excitement intensified after, at the request of the British ministry in France, seized the book production of the publisher that published Lolita.
The French press defended the novel. While in France the head of the publishing house was fighting against the prohibition of the book, in June 1957, the American magazine Ancor Review published a fragment from Nabokov’s Lolita. Soon, a real hunt began for the author of the book - publishers bombarded him with offers. In 1958, Lolita was published in America. In a short time, the circulation of the book broke all records, Lolita became the best-selling book.
The little-known Nabokov instantly became a world famous author. After many failures, Nabokov was finally lucky - the writer conquered the American public. In the USSR, the book was branded as “pornographic,” and publication was out of the question. But the writer nonetheless created the Russian version, published in 1967 in the United States. “Lolita” Nabokov very quickly leaked through the Iron Curtain and for many years spread illegally. Only after perestroika, in 1989, the book became available to a wide readership.
The unthinkable story of an adult male love for a twelve-year-old girl shocked the public. The release of Lolita caused a flurry of reviews, which were divided into two camps. Some argue that Lolita is frankly obscene. The story of a pedophile's criminal attraction to a little girl is outrageous in itself. But everything shows that the author also sympathizes with him. But the most outrageous is that the author calls for this and readers.
Others believe that the work of Nabokov is not an erotic novel in the usual sense of the word, but a sad story about the power of vulgarity and human passions. In the book “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov there is a lot of sad and deep about the dark sides of man. His heroes are trying to break out of the ordinary world and make a jump into the realm of freedom. The characters of Nabokov are attracted by the limit of what is permitted, and their actions are a breakthrough from the tightness of our world. It is the falsity, stuffiness and vulgarity of life that the writer brilliantly describes.
But what about the author? Nabokov always believed that Lolita was his best book. He was convinced that this was a serious work, not a lecherous and obscene book. All categories in the novel are arbitrary, there is no clear border between them. And if a certain element of obscenity is allowed for a comedy of morals, then pornography in Lolita is not an image taken out of context, it is a tragedy. And obscene and tragic are mutually exclusive.
Readers' reviews of Lolita by Nabokov were also divided into completely opposite opinions. The first ones are sure that the novel is magnificent, although the author chose a complex and difficult topic. Perhaps, having stepped out from the pen of another writer, this piercing and sad story of love, doomed, crazy, sick, would have evoked only repulsive feelings. But the talented master is florid and simply puts words into phrases.
The stunning syllable of the narrative, the author’s style is dragging on - you continue to read this provocative book and you understand that Humbert is undoubtedly unpleasant and immoral. But this person is unhappy and sick with his passion. He is cowardly and is afraid that his thoughts will remain thoughts, without harming the nymphets that he met everywhere - in buses, parks, courtyards. And only Lolita became his unfulfilled dream. Living with his obsession, the hero of Nabokov ended up experiencing a painful feeling that Lolita had turned into the shadow of someone killed by him. This love became a kind of reckoning for him.
Other readers in their reviews of the book "Lolita" write that the plot of the book is unpleasant. After saying that the heroine of Nabokov Lolita “was twelve,” everything else already seems like a perversion. Although many of them agree that this novel makes you think about the morality of the younger generation, as well as about their own. The novel encourages you to think about the disastrous consequences that result from the lack of proper education and vigilance on the part of parents. This book is not just a story about forbidden love, but rather a powerful moralizer.
Perhaps the summary outlined below will help to judge both of them, as well as encourage reading the original. But you can give a worthy assessment of a work only by reading the full version of Nolokov's Lolita.
Meeting with Dolores
Humbert Humbert is a teacher of French literature. At thirty-seven years old, he has an extraordinary attraction to nymphetics - as he calls charming girls from nine to fourteen years old. His childhood impression turned him away from mature women. In prison, he writes a confession about the events that took place in the summer of 1947. Ten years earlier, he lived in Paris with his wife. On the eve of her departure to America, she left him and fled with a Russian emigrant colonel. Humbert was treated in American sanatoriums for melancholy.
Once again, leaving the hospital, he rented a house at Charlotte Haze in New England. The mistress of the house had a twelve-year-old daughter, Dolores. She reminded Humbert of his childhood love. After her loss, his erotic life acquired such a strange attraction. The languid craving that he feels for the girl, Humbert entrusted to the pages of his diary. In the summer, mother sends Lolita to the camp and writes a letter to Humbert. She confesses love to her guest and says that if he does not share her feelings, then let her leave the house.
After some hesitation, Humbert will marry Lolita's mother. After all, now nothing will hinder him from communicating with the girl. After the wedding, Charlotte tells Humbert her plans for Lolita. She intends to send her daughter to Beardsley College. In a fit of anger, he wants to drown his wife in the lake. But, unfortunately, she can’t do this, since a neighbor-artist is looking at them from the top of the hill.
Charlotte finds the diary and exposes Humbert. While he is considering how to get out of this situation, Mrs. Humbert writes letters. In tears, she runs to send them and gets under the car. Humbert sets off for Lolita after the funeral. He tells the girl that her mother is in serious condition at the hospital. Taking Lolita from the camp, he gives her sleeping pills in the hotel to enjoy the sleeping girl. But the drugs do not work well, Lolita sleeps restlessly. In the morning, after waking up, she seduces her stepfather. To Humbert's amazement, she was not a virgin. In the camp, she "tried" this with the son of the boss.
Soon the stepfather reveals to the girl that her mother is dead. They travel throughout America for a year. He bribes the girl with trinkets and threatens to send her to the orphanage if she extradites him to the police. They often scandal, and Humbert realizes that this connection does not bring him true happiness. Soon he gives Lolita to a private gymnasium in Beardsley. In January 1949, the girl turns fourteen. She loses the charm of nymphetism. More and more often he requires money and, as it seems to his stepfather, hides it in order to escape from him.
At the gymnasium, the girl became interested in theater and, rehearsing the play, fell in love with its author, playwright Quilty. Humbert, sensing something was amiss, takes the girl away from the gymnasium a week before the premiere. In the summer they go to travel across America. Suspicions of treason constantly haunt Humbert, and he does not leave Lolita for a minute. Once he noticed a Cadillac cherry chasing them. There were actors in it: Lolita was cheating on her stepfather, along with accomplices of her playwright lover. In Elphinstone, a girl with a high fever is taken to the hospital. For the first time in two years, they are breaking up. When he goes to pick up Lolita from the hospital, it turns out that "uncle" came for her.
For three and a half years, Humbert lives without Lolita. Nabokov’s description of the hero’s experiences for some time makes him believe that Humbert really has a great and sincere feeling. He searches for Lolita and rides in the opposite direction, in the wake of his rival. In the fall, Humbert arrives in Beardsley and is treated in a sanatorium until spring. From a straitjacket a new girlfriend saves him - a naive, brainless and tender thirty-year-old Rita. For a year, Humbert has been a teacher at the University of Cantrip. He will soon be in New York, where in September 1952 he receives a letter from Lolita. She writes that she is married and expecting a baby. Her husband was promised a job in Alaska, and she is going to go with him. But in order to pay off her debts, she needs money.
In continuation of the retelling, it is necessary to recall that in the summary of Nolokov's Lolita, quotes and many important points are missing. Desperately wanting to find Lolita, Humbert identifies her address using the stamp and sets off on the road. He finds her in a shack on the outskirts of the city, Lolita's husband is an almost deaf war veteran. Lolita reveals to Humbert the name of her seducer, who is not indifferent to the young children of the genius of dramaturgy Claire Quilty. She was sure that Humbert had already guessed everything. Lolita said that Quilty brought her to the ranch and promised to take her to Hollywood in the fall. But there she was waiting for drugs, drunkenness and group orgies. For refusing to participate in them, she was thrown out onto the street. Then she struggled to make a living and finally met her future husband.
In the book "Lolita" Nabokov described the remorse of his hero so movingly that Humbert becomes sorry. He feels guilty in front of Lolita and offers her to leave her husband. But she refuses and says that she never loved Humbert. He leaves them four thousand dollars that he received from the sale of the house, and goes in search of Claire Quilty. Humbert returns to the city where he lived with his mother Lolita, and transfers all the property in the name of her daughter. There he finds out the address of the playwright Quilty.
Then Humbert goes to Parkington, to the Quilti ancestral castle. Without releasing the pistol from his hands, Humbert conducts a half-crazy conversation with him, interrupted by a struggle and shots. The playwright tries to escape from his executioner, but Humbert shoots him. Guests come to the house, drink vodka and do not notice Humbert's confession that he killed the owner of the house. He soon leaves the castle. Vladimir Nabokov in “Lolita”, describing the last hours of Quilty, picked up such words and phrases that the reader’s death does not cause any pity, only disgust.
Humbert writes his confession in a mental institution, where his mind is checked. Continues her in prison. But, without waiting for trial, Humbert dies of a heart attack. Lolita, having resolved herself as a dead girl on Christmas Day 1952, also dies.
Should I read the novel?
“Lolita” has always aroused and evokes different emotions among readers, but one thing is certain with certainty - this story leaves no one indifferent. Awe, excitement mixed with great grief and seasoned with wit - such is she, "Lolita" Nabokov. The story of the devouring, doomed and obsessive passion of an aging Humbert for little Lolita is the most famous and controversial work of the writer.
The scandalous work of Nabokov survived difficult times. Almost everyone considered it his duty to criticize the novel, nevertheless, this drama with erotic connotations, diluted with passions and intrigues, continues to be read. Everyone finds in it what he wanted to find for himself. More than sixty years have passed since the first publication, but interest in the novel does not cease.
“Lolita” Nabokov repeatedly filmed, and the film E. Line, released in 1997, is considered the most successful. This is the softest and brightest version, which is recognized as the best thanks to the young and unfamiliar actress. D. Swain played her part so believably that she made many believe that it was Nabokov who wrote about her, and she went off the screen right from the pages of the book. Despite all the controversy surrounding Lolita, it is safe to say that this is a story that you should definitely read.