Like Arthur Conan Doyle will be remembered, first and foremost, as the author of Shorlock Holmes stories, Saradindu Bandopadhyay as those of Byomkesh Bakshi tales, and Albert Camus as that of The Outsider, despite their other literary works, Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov will forever be associated with Lolita – for better or for worse. This was a novel that was both controversial and groundbreaking for espousing a theme that most people would find deplorable; the fact that it still managed to be reckoned as a masterpiece in the English literature and turned the character of ‘Lolita’ into a pop-culture icon, speaks volumes about it as well as its author. Right from its faux prologue and the iconic first paragraph where the titular character is introduced by the cheekily named narrator, viz. Humbert Humbert, the novel is filled with mordant wit, dry humour, trenchant ironies, and fascinating wordplays, coupled with a parallel layer of subtle poignancy, lyricism and beauty. The novel was slightly slow to start with, but by the time the narrator, an erudite French gentleman who has a thing for “nymphets”, moves to the US and meets the precocious 12-year old Lolita, not only does an entire orchestra start playing in his mind, the book too jumped to rarefied levels of style, quality and grandiosity. Humbert’s forbidden relationship with the young girl alternated between criminally manic obsession and love of the most heartbreaking kind. Interestingly, its satirical observations on human behavior and the dangerous love story apart, it also managed to be an incredible ode to life on the road and traveling through America. Despite the fluid language and darkly comic tone, this isn’t the easiest read… but a gratifying one nonetheless – from intellectual as well as visceral standpoints.
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
Genre: Drama/Social Satire/Black Comedy/Road Novel/Romantic Drama/Stream of Consciousness