Illustration By Katarina Ringman
The novel is controversial, and its subject matter is dead wrong. I repeat, dead wrong! But, it's one of the most picturesque written books I've read in my entire life. It's one of the best work of fiction ever written, period.
"Lolita" (1955), by Russian - born author Vladimir Nabokov, basically coined the concept of a Lolita as we use the term contemporary. It's the hardcore definition of a prepubescent or adolescent attractive girl. Although in our present culture, it's taken on an extended meaning of stuff floating around on the Internet (to put it mildly), rock bands and cool Japanese clothing gear for girls. However, what we refer to as a Lolita today, Nabokov (in his literature) called a Nymphet (with Fauntlet, as its male equivalent) back then. I'll try to clarify without digressing too much.
Dolores Haze, or Lolita, is one of the characters in "Lolita". Her nickname is one of many, given to her by the book's protagonist, Humbert Humbert. -Cita and -ita are Spanish diminutives usually added to names as a sign of a affection. For example, I'm sometimes called "Elinita" or "Elita" (derived from, Ellie) by my Latina friends (Hi Paula! Hey girl!). And remember the musical "Evita"? Evita, is Eva Perón. So whatever your name is (it doesn't have to start with an 'E'), you can add -ita, (or, -ito, if you're a boy) to it. Lemme know what you get! The endearment is only distorted in the book.
All the same, a quick summary: "Lolita", is about a middle - aged scholar who takes up residence in a private home in a New England town, after he sees and becomes spellbound by the house owner's prepubescent daughter. He later marries his landlady, Charlotte Haze, to ensure proximity to her only child, Lola - or in Humbert's many names, "She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line..." I have to stop the quote right there as the rest is plain creepy.
Following a series of "unfortunate" events, Charlotte is killed in an accident, and Lolita is left in the custody of Humbert. "You see, she had absolutely no where else to go". After a year touring North America, Lolita finally escapes her aggressor's hands, subsequently falling victim in an others. Leaving the tale to conclude with murder, and deaths at the beginning, middle and end of the story. Thus, supposedly "cheating" the protagonist of his redemption.
The story isn't nearly as grim as my storytelling ability - non withstanding the subject matter: It's more comical, than tragic. A satire, told entirely from Humbert's perspective. In the most beautiful prose, Humbert "wants the reader to be as perverse as he is, to become like him so that we will be complicit and sympathetic to his acts." He's an unreliable narrator who paints himself the victim, and makes out Lolita to be a "deadly little demon".
There have been two film adaptations of the novel. The first came out in 1962 and the second, 35 years later. Remember I said that I preferred the second version, before burying my head in the sand like an ostrich? It's not that I don't enjoy the craftsmanship of the first movie. It's in black and white, shot with interesting camera angles and contains elaborate aspects of black comedy, starring James Mason as a credible Humbert and Peter Sellers as Humbert's reflection, Clare Quilty: But, Melanie Griffith as "The Haze woman...", Dominique Swain as Lo-lee-ta and Jeremy Irons' performance as Humbert Humbert in the second filmatization, just moves me in a different way. It's poetry in motion.
Even though it's been a while since I watched either of the movies, I still recall the quality of Irons' narration or voice - over, as it's called, in the second installment. It's unsurpassed. He just has a superior manner of playing, a melancholic (Antonio, in "The Merchant of Venice") delusional, (Scar, in "The Lion King") and horrifying legal guardian (Humbert, in "Lolita") with perfect conviction. Period.