I came here to keep in touch with all my friends who left GR after the censorship debacle. I read a little of every genre. I co-blog at Musings of a Bibliomaniac.
A couple of months ago, I ventured for the first time into the territory of literary pedophilia with Alyssa Nutting’s controversial novel Tampa. It did not go so well. As much as I understood the point of that exercise, I couldn’t appreciate it, drowning as I was in a sea of utter disgust. I was repulsed by Celeste and everything she said and did - not an unconventional reaction when all that your protagonist can talk about is having sex with children.
When I decided to acquaint myself with the infamous Humbert Humbert, I was equal parts wary and curious. Wary, because of all the Tampa/Lolita comparisons; curious, because I wanted to know what Nabokov had done differently to warrant the label of a classic and a slew of 5-star reviews.
The answer, it turns out, is very simple.
Like, one word simple.
Celeste never claimed to have feelings of any kind. She acknowledged what she was. A monster.
Humbert, however, believes he loves Lolita. He paints himself as a victim of his own twisted feelings. A human.
I know, it shouldn't matter. To repeatedly rape a child (Who cares if it's consensual, it's still rape) and call it love is no justification. It's loathsome. So what if he acknowledges he ruined that girl's life? I should hate him. But a tiny part of me cannot, for as difficult as this is to admit, I came frighteningly close to falling for Humbert's lies.
So for the past few hours, I've been sitting here despising myself for not being able to despise this truly despicable man, like I know I should.
I won't call Lolita a love-story, nor will I call it a book about pedophilia. This is.. this is so much more layered than that. For me, at least. Because Nabokov has made me re-examine the idea of love in a way I least expected. If your love ruins the life of the person you love, does that still qualify as love? The husband who punches his wife for talking to a handsome stranger and then says he did it out of love.. is it possible he believes that? Worse, does the wife put up with the abuse because she believes him?
Sure, Humbert could be lying. Maybe he never loved Lolita. Not that it makes any difference. Not when that tiny, appalling part of me is convinced he loved her.
Oh Nabokov, what have you done to me?