Coffee Break

Coffee Break: My Experience With Lolita and Why I Am Angry

Originally I was going to do a review Lolita but halfway through I realized my thoughts were all over and it was more of me rambling than anyhing else so I thought a discussion post is much better. Grab a cuppa and let’s talk about Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

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In case you are not familiar with the book here is a Goodreads Synopsis:

Humbert Humbert – scholar, aesthete and romantic – has fallen completely and utterly in love with Lolita Haze, his landlady’s gum-snapping, silky skinned twelve-year-old daughter. Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita, Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance; but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere, he will carry her off on a desperate cross-country misadventure, all in the name of Love. Hilarious, flamboyant, heart-breaking and full of ingenious word play, Lolita is an immaculate, unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion and lust.

A little backstory; Lolita is a book I had been wanting to read for years even though I had an idea of what it’s about so I had no problem buying it, and to be honest I was really hyped to read it. So you can imagine how fast I opened this book when I got it.

I found Lolita so uncomfortable and unsettling from the word go and I could only take it in small doses so I ended up taking too long to finish it. What do you do when you want to enjoy a book but the subject matter is off putting? Because that was a major struggle for me as the book’s major theme is pedophiliaNabokov is a brilliant writer, a master in the art of writing prose and I was in awe. I now understand why people read him. His language is rich and almost lyrical and it made me wonder what he intended with this book, the storyline, because I couldn’t find any hidden meaning. He bares it all for us, every single sick twisted thought for you to do with the information whatever you want. He created a monster, Humbert, and he goes to extreme lengths to show us just how bad he is. This made me wonder, is portraying something the same as condoning it? Nabokov manipulates us with his beautiful chilling words and then you remember he is talking about a 12 year old child and you just become repulsed.

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I tried to keep in mind that the book is fiction but then again, that was very difficult since we have a disturbed pedophile whose actions are not questioned or reprimanded. His obsessive behavior is scary and his thoughts from the first page till the last gets more and more shocking. The worst part? Humbert is self-aware. He knows it’s wrong, he knows how dangerous his thoughts are but he doesn’t care because in his mind he is in love and that’s it and that broke me as much as it made me angry. He ruins the life of a little girl and only feels remorse because he has lost her and can’t have her anymore.

Do you give it 5 stars for its beautiful prose or 1 star for the terrible characters? I clearly understand why it’s a controversial book but it doesn’t make it any better. I believe it was a master piece in it’s time, a wonderful peice of literature, but now? In this age? It definitely couldn’t pass as such.

Anyway, all this to say Lolita is a confessional- like book from a disturbed obsessive pedophile and Nabokov knows how to elicit volatile emotions from a person. It’s me. I am that person.

Have you read a similar book to Lolita? What were your thoughts?

If you have read Lolita, what did you think about it? I’d love to have a discussion with you in the comments below.

Happy weekend! ❤️ See you on my next post. 🙂

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26 thoughts on “Coffee Break: My Experience With Lolita and Why I Am Angry

  1. I have heard about Lolita though I have never read it. I think I’d have a similar reaction though. There is no way I’d ever understand a pedophile so I’d hate the MC. I read Rebecca Done’s This Secret We are Keeping and I still remember how repulsed I was although that one was about a student – teacher relationship. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this title.

    1. That’s another trope I don’t understand. It bothers me to no end especially when the age difference is very huge. Thank you for stopping by.

  2. I loved Lolita, despite definitely feeling uncomfortable with it. I think that really shows Nabokov’s strength as a writer. I also think the way he framed the story, being written by Humbert himself from jail, really helped make it all more tolerable. Knowing that it’s an unreliable narrator and that he was eventually arrested was helpful somehow.

    1. That’s another angle to look at it. I actually believe Nabokov is one of the few authors who can write such a controversial book. Thank you for stopping by!

  3. Hey bug. I get your opinions, i really do. But i thought it was pure madness and pure art. It evokes emotions that all books should and I feel that Nabokov is very aware that he is writing on a topics most people shy off from. And the fact that he manages to do this without sounding crass and crude amazes me. Take for example Thomas Harris who paints us a picture of a highly dignified and well versed cannibal. (You should read Hannibal if you haven’t). He manages to let us into a character, to side with this monster instead of vouching for the victims. Both books are dark and maybe i am just into dark things, but i feel that such books and characters make me feel like less of a villain. Like maybe everyone is redeemable and people are just imperfect and flawed. And that that is just okay.

  4. Hey bug. I get your opinions, i really do. But i thought it was pure madness and pure art. It evokes emotions that all books should and I feel that Nabokov is very aware that he is writing on a topics most people shy off from. And the fact that he manages to do this without sounding crass and crude amazes me. Take for example Thomas Harris who paints us a picture of a highly dignified and well versed cannibal. (You should read Hannibal if you haven’t). He manages to let us into a character, to side with this monster instead of vouching for the victims. Both books are dark and maybe i am just into dark things, but i feel that such books and characters make me feel like less of a villain. Like maybe everyone is redeemable and people are just imperfect and flawed. And that that is just okay.

    1. That’s where my (long) essay comes in. Like, here we have a book that is brilliantly written, a masterpiece one might say, but the subject matter is so uncomfortable that you start second guessing your sanity in reading the book. I believe Lolita is that one book that will always have mixed reactions.
      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. 🙂

  5. This is a very well-written thought-piece. Congratulations on that. 🙂

    I’m stuck with Lolita at around 10% since I started reading it few years ago. The onslaught of violence around has made me somewhat numb towards dark subject matters in fiction but it was the language got my goat.

    Have you read “Rust & Stardust” by T. Greenwood? It described the true crime which influenced Nabokov to write “Lolita”. That’s another quite attention-grabbing book.

    1. Thank you for your comment and stopping by! ♥️ I can honestly say aside from the (beautiful) prose you’re not missing out on anything.

      No I haven’t read the book, but I’ll definitely look it up.

  6. I picked this up at a second hand bookshop when I was at university – 40 years ago! – and hated it. I didn’t appreciate the writing or anything else about it, just found the subject so repulsive – but I finished it. Don’t know what that says, and the memory of hating it remains (clearly) but I have managed to forget the book. Although I did have a car named Humbert – by its previous owner!

    1. The fact that I read it till the end makes me wonder why. Like, I wanted to finish it up but I also wanted to throw it in the dustbin.
      I can only hope to forget about it.

      Haha that’s a cheeky one, does Humbert still exist?

      1. Ah, I doubt it! It ran out of oil about 25 years ago, was brought back to life and taken off my hands by a friend’s father and had a happy retirement of a few years I think!

  7. It always amuses me that Amazon quite openly sell ‘Lolita’ (quite rightly), yet can be sniffy about new authors’ works if they venture close to certain ‘disputed territories’.

    My first novel (which spawned a series, even before a publisher accepted me) has the activities of two schoolgirl prostitutes as one of themes (I write crime novels). Both girls (sisters) are below the legal age for prostitution (18 in UK), and one is under 16 (the age of consent here).
    When I sent my publisher the MS after discussing it over the phone, he came back to me with a query about ‘underaged sex scenes’… Were there any, and how detailed were they?
    Apparently, while Amazon are fine with adult erotica, they’re likely to remove anything describing underaged sex.

    After discussion, I agreed to look into two options… Make the younger character a year older, or remove any descriptive scenes involving her with older men.

    The big difference between this and Nabakov’s book was that the young girl looked older, and was fooling men into believing she was over 18. It wasn’t a case of intentional pædophile activity on the men’s part (her 17 year old sister was shorter, and would happily play the ‘school uniform’ role for clients if required).

    Raising the girl’s age to keep Amazon’s censors at bay proved impractical, as one of the continuing threads throughout the plot was about potential jeopardy. The girl’s regular client (who becomes more of a sugar daddy, rather than punter through the series) is unaware that she’s only 15 (in the first book)… will he be caught out by this? He’s basically one of the ‘good guys’ in the plot, written sympathetically to elicit mixed feelings among readers: feedback suggests that women readers see her as the villain, with him the innocent dupe… despite him being a self confessed user of prostitutes (as is one of my other main characters… but then my protagonist is a high end ‘escort’).

    Instead, I re-wrote the couple’s encounters, leaving a lot more to the reader’s imagination (this wasn’t explicit porn to start with), and simply implying some of the activities they got up to. In fact, these changes improved the book a lot, as well as satisfying my publisher’s concerns. – The scenes with the elder sister were more involved, and written more descriptively… but then one of her clients was a more complex major character: an urbane, moralistic when it suited him, criminal entrepreneur who runs a considerable business empire (both legal and otherwise).

  8. It’s a crime novel, aimed at an adult readership, though one beta reader gave it to her 13 year old daughter to read as she thought it gave useful moral messages… However, another said: “I like it, but I wouldn’t want my fifteen year old to read it.”
    There was no conscious ‘intent’ other than to entertain the reader. I wanted a different kind of protagonist… one who might more usually be on the wrong side of the law in crime fiction. There are too many quirky ‘old lady’ sleuths living in fictional villages with murder rates that would outshine prohibition era Chicago, or New York on a bad week.
    My ‘Lena’ lives in a village between two cities, Bristol and Bath, and acts as a catalyst to link her wealthy clientèle, the lower reaches of the sex industry, her biker friends (Lena rides a bike), and other friends and acquaintances both in the police and elsewhere. Some operate internationally (one owns a transport business), which opens up the scope a little more.

    You can check her out in the FREE e-book taster – two short complete story prequels to the series – available at https://www.amazon.co.uk/This-Lena-Compendium-Recreation-Payback-ebook/dp/B07HH88WJZ?tag=gevert08-21 or on other local Amazon sites.

    The thread about the two schoolgirls was based on a true story related to me by the wife of someone I knew, who was a former heroin addict who’d worked the streets to support her habit (before getting clean with the help of the guy who became her husband). She was open about her past, and related a few stories she’d heard while working, one being about two girls from well off families who’d take a train into Bristol city centre in the evening, then frequent streets where prostitutes operated to pick up a couple of early evening punters (kerb crawlers) to pay for the night’s clubbing and a taxi home to the country… Needless to say, the regular street girls didn’t appreciate the competition.
    You can’t make up stories like that, so I used it as a basis for one of the threads in ‘Transactions’ – “The special selection box of assorted tarts”. (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Transactions-special-selection-assorted-Friends-ebook/dp/B00ZCPELNU?tag=gevert08-21)

  9. I very much relate to this post! I read Lolita years ago for uni and it was a horrible experience- and yet I couldn’t fault the writing. I do understand the fact that it’s art and that the writer isn’t condoning his protagonist’s evil actions… and yet I couldn’t help but dislike the book. For me, because I rate based on what I feel about the book and not on its quality, I found it easy to give it a low rating, but I can see why that’s a struggle- cos purely on a technical level it’s very well done. That said- I’ve never been able to get past the question of *why did Nabokov write this- cos ugh*?!? 😉 Anyway, amazing post!

    1. Oh how I agree with you on this! Nabokov really did know how to rattle his readers.
      Thank you for reading and for stopping by!

  10. I’ve come to see the novel as Nabokov doing a study in psychological projection. We are seeing her through Humbert’s perceptions of what he’s projecting onto the little girl, not any kind of objective reality. The most disturbing part of it is that we now refer to any teen or pre-teen girl who acts flirtatiously as a “Lolita.” The little girl in the story was the victim of something horrible, not a seductress.

    1. Hahaha I’d be the same if roles were reversed and I was the one reading this post instead of writing it.
      Thank you for reading and if you do get to read Lolita, please let me know your thoughts!

  11. I’ve never read the book but I know the story. I like books that make for uncomfortable reading. I think if I’m feeling like that then job done. Not all books need a warm fuzzy feeling or a happy ending.
    Great discussion. I must get round to reading this x

    1. Then this the book for you. It’ll unsettle you and make you start questioning yourself.

      Thank you for reading ❤️

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