Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’ Retains Its Attraction During Me Too Times | Culture


Just appeared in America Lolita in the Afterlife (“Lolita in posterity”), volume in which six decades after its publication 18 female writers and eight female writers analyze Lolita, one of the most controversial novels of all time. The work of Vladimir Nabokov (Saint Petersburg, Russia, 1899-Montreux, Switzerland, 1977) addresses extremely problematic issues, which at the time that American society is going through, presided over by the sign of phenomena such as the Me Too movement, it is particularly risky to explore.

Those who collaborate in the volume coincide in pointing out that Lolita it is a masterpiece. This explains why it has enchanted millions of readers around the world. But it is also true that Lolita It has always generated rejections as intense and numerous as the adhesions it arouses, due to the terrifying nature of its subject, the systematic rape of a 12-year-old girl by her stepfather, a monster who in addition to being a pedophile turns out to be a killer.

The most recent cover of & # 039; Lolita & # 039;  in Spanish.

Instruction manual to read ‘Lolita’

Lolita in posterity responds to the attempt, as honest as it is radical, to unravel what could be characterized as the paradox of Lolita: How is it possible that, given the heinous subject matter of the novel, it has never failed to arouse the enthusiasm of countless readers? Aware of having viscerally succumbed to something they know is an artistic achievement of the first order (“the heartbreaking beauty that the book exudes is like a poison that annihilates the resistance of the most alert reader,” writes one of the authors) those who participate in the volume try to process the phenomenon in a rational way.

Nabokov took five years to complete the novel, at the rate of 16 hours a day. After being rejected by the most prestigious publishers in the United States, in 1955 it was published in Paris by Olympia Press, specializing in erotic works. She went unnoticed until Graham Greene praised her in a review published in the Times from London who raised blisters for his alleged immorality. The scandal that surrounded the novel’s appearance in the United States three years later catapulted it to number one on the bestseller list of The New York Times, an unusual case, in the case of a demanding literary work. Breaking another mold, the novel broke the record set by gone With the Wind in 1939, selling more than one hundred thousand copies in three weeks.

Covers of the novel 'Lolita', by Vladimir Nabokov.
Covers of the novel ‘Lolita’, by Vladimir Nabokov.

Intellectual honesty

Lolita he immediately transcended the limits of literature. As soon as it had been conceived, the fictional creature made its way into the world on its own, leaving behind its creator, who stated: “Lolita is famous, not me.” The word “lolita” has become part of the universal imagination, sneaking into all sorts of domains. The Spanish dictionary He defines her as a “seductive and provocative adolescent”. Why the same has not happened with Humbert, the name of the male protagonist, is one of the questions posed by the volume, which traces the footprint of the term “lolita” in areas such as the female adolescent subculture in Japan, the world of fashion , pop music, film, advertising or iconography for book covers and posters. The notoriety of the word is manifested in facts such as that the town of Lolita, in Texas, was forced to change its name, or that Jeffrey Epstein, the late American magnate, convicted of pedophile, baptized his private jet as Lolita Express. Ironically, Nabokov considered that Lolita it was “the purest of his books” and he never tired of saying that it was a serious novel with a serious intention.

I would like to say that I love Lolita just for the beauty of the language, but it’s not true. I love the book for its boldness.

Morgan Jerkins

Lolita in posterity He also draws attention for his audacity and intellectual honesty. Leaving aside the clichés, the book sets out to explore the deepest keys of the novel, appealing to the opinion of a representative group of the most original recent voices of criticism and American literary creation. The edition reminds us that a skilled reader like Dorothy Parker used to say that the novel had as many fans as it did. The writer Roxane Gay shares with many of the collaborators of the volume the idea that it is impossible to draw clearly the limits that separate the hate from the love that such a book inspires. It is more disturbing for him to acknowledge than to affirm that Lolita is a masterpiece implies becoming an accomplice of the monstrosities perpetrated by its protagonist.

Lolita, We read in another article, it is a diabolical book because the skill with which it represents the evil that prevails in the world manages to pervert the most innocent reader. Journalist Kate Russell recalls her role on a website created by teenagers fascinated by the book who corresponded with men the protagonist’s age, including inmates convicted of murder. For Susan Choi, what is unsettling about the novel is that it is impossible not to succumb to its insidious beauty. For Kira von Eichel the danger is that it penetrates the head and guts of the readers, trapping them next to the predator. According to Lila Azam Zanganeh, no book better illustrates the idea that human desire has no limits. Refusing to feel guilty or ashamed, Morgan Jerkins argues: “I would like to say that I love Lolita just for the beauty of the language, but it’s not true. I love the book for its audacity. ” According to another contributor, “The strange truth is that women, including feminists like me, can and have been infected by this book.”

James Mason and Sue Lyon, in
James Mason and Sue Lyon, in “Lolita” by director Stanley Kubrick.GEtty

To novelist Christina Baker Kline it sounds like a sort of instruction manual for sexual predators, but also a book that is important to read in 2021. Mary Gaitskill, one of the most powerful American storytellers of recent decades, warns of the danger of self-satisfaction moral that those who feel authorized to condemn others in the name of their own convictions incur when reading the book.

It is not among its authors, but the volume echoes the opinion of the most qualified reader it has ever had Lolita, Véra Nabokov, wife of the author, to whom the original novel is dedicated. The zero reader of Lolita he complained that critics never noticed the most terrifying paragraph in the book, in which it is said that the girl cried silently “every night, every night.” To a journalist who asked if her husband had asked her advice before publishing Lolita, Vera Nabokov replied: “When such a masterpiece sees the light of day, the only problem is finding someone who dares to publish it.”


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