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Monday, Sep 16, 2019


The book Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is the most intense, strangely eerie, unavoidably compelling book. Quite possibly, ever.

india Updated: Jun 10, 2006 13:04 IST
Vikramaditya Singh
Vikramaditya Singh

Vladimir Nabokov
• Price — Rs 15
• Publication — Penguin

There is a strange, eerie, unavoidably compelling quality that certain things possess. Thing is a weak and deliberately indistinct word, but I hope its vagueness indicates the extent of variation in the possessors of the aforementioned quality.

For those of you who feel lost and are already losing interest, what I mean to say is simple — Lolita is the most intense, strangely eerie, unavoidably compelling book. Quite possibly, ever.

Many readers, I accept, will not share my opinion. In a society prone to the moral commitments of an immensely muddled past, some will even question the need and purpose of the book’s existence.

But as you turn page after page of Vladimir Nabokov’s painfully beautiful and enthralling prose, I am certain even those of you who belong to that majority will be silenced and entranced.

The author beautifully creates a landscape whose verisimilitude is tangible, allowing you to drive through the seemingly endless number of nameless American towns the book veers through.

The book holds within its bowels a wry, lyrical wit that gives a tune to the obsessive cravings of the book’s aging protagonist, Humbert Humbert.

I would of course be lying if I did not concede that a degree of Lolita's pleasure derives from the patently voyeuristic manner in which it presents a relationship so morbid that society dare not classify it except under the rubric reserved for acts that result in a life behind bars.

But Nobokov is aware of this — he is aware of his reader’s choice who will seek entertainment in the lewd, detailed re-telling of nights in stuffy, nameless motels — and if you are that reader, you will be severely disappointed.

For Lolita is so much grander than all that. It is tale of clash of civilisations. It is a maddening, hallucinatory love story that at its core, removed of prejudice and societal conditioning, is love. 

First Published: Jun 10, 2006 13:04 IST