by Vladimir Nabokov


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Awe and exhiliration--along with heartbreak and mordant wit--abound in Lolita, Nabokov's most famous and controversial novel, which tells the story of the aging Humbert Humbert's obsessive, devouring, and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze. Lolita is also the story of a hypercivilized European colliding with the cheerful barbarism of postwar America. Most of all, it is a meditation on love--love as outrage and hallucination, madness and transformation.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679723165
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/01/1989
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 8,737
Product dimensions: 5.21(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)

About the Author

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Nabokovs were known for their high culture and commitment to public service, and the elder Nabokov was an outspoken opponent of antisemitism and one of the leaders of the opposition party, the Kadets. In 1919, following the Bolshevik revolution, he took his family into exile. Four years later he was shot and killed at a political rally in Berlin while trying to shield the speaker from right-wing assassins.

The Nabokov household was trilingual, and as a child Nabokov was already reading Wells, Poe, Browning, Keats, Flaubert, Verlaine, Rimbaud, Tolstoy, and Chekhov, alongside the popular entertainments of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Jules Verne. As a young man, he studied Slavic and romance languages at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his honors degree in 1922. For the next eighteen years he lived in Berlin and Paris, writing prolifically in Russian under the pseudonym Sirin and supporting himself through translations, lessons in English and tennis, and by composing the first crossword puzzles in Russian. In 1925 he married Vera Slonim, with whom he had one child, a son, Dmitri.

Having already fled Russia and Germany, Nabokov became a refugee once more in 1940, when he was forced to leave France for the United States. There he taught at Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell. He also gave up writing in Russian and began composing fiction in English. In his afterword to Lolita he claimed: "My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody's concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian tongue for a second-rate brand of English, devoid of any of those apparatuses–the baffling mirror, the black velvet backdrop, the implied associations and traditions–which the native illusionist, frac-tails flying, can magically use to transcend the heritage in his own way." [p. 317] Yet Nabokov's American period saw the creation of what are arguably his greatest works, Bend Sinister (1947), Lolita (1955), Pnin (1957), and Pale Fire (1962), as well as the translation of his earlier Russian novels into English. He also undertook English translations of works by Lermontov and Pushkin and wrote several books of criticism. Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.

Date of Birth:

April 23, 1899

Date of Death:

July 2, 1977

Place of Birth:

St. Petersburg, Russia

Place of Death:

Montreux, Switzerland


Trinity College, Cambridge, 1922

Read an Excerpt


Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

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. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.


I was born in 1910, in Paris. My father was a gentle, easy-going person, a salad of racial genes: a Swiss citizen, of mixed French and Austrian descent, with a dash of the Danube in his veins. I am going to pass around in a minute some lovely, glossy-blue picture-postcards. He owned a luxurious hotel on the Riviera. His father and two grandfathers had sold wine, jewels and silk, respectively. At thirty he married an English girl, daughter of Jerome Dunn, the alpinist, and granddaughter of two Dorset parsons, experts in obscure subjects-paleopedology and Aeolian harps, respectively. My very photogenic mother died in a freak accident (picnic, lightning) when I was three, and, save for a pocket of warmth in the darkest past, nothing of her subsists within the hollows and dells of memory, over which, if you can still stand my style (I am writing under observation), the sun of my infancy had set: surely, you all know those redolent remnants of day suspended, with the midges, about some hedge in bloom or suddenly entered and traversed by the rambler, at the bottom of a hill, in the summer dusk; a furry warmth, golden midges.

My mother's elder sister, Sybil, whom a cousin of my father's had married and then neglected, served in my immediate family as a kind of unpaid governess and housekeeper. Somebody told me later that she had been in love with my father, and that he had lightheartedly taken advantage of it one rainy day and forgotten it by the time the weather cleared. I was extremely fond of her, despite the rigidity-the fatal rigidity-of some of her rules. Perhaps she wanted to make of me, in the fullness of time, a better widower than my father. Aunt Sybil had pink-rimmed azure eyes and a waxen complexion. She wrote poetry. She was poetically superstitious. She said she knew she would die soon after my sixteenth birthday, and did. Her husband, a great traveler in perfumes, spent most of his time in America, where eventually he founded a firm and acquired a bit of real estate.

I grew, a happy, healthy child in a bright world of illustrated books, clean sand, orange trees, friendly dogs, sea vistas and smiling faces. Around me the splendid Hotel Mirana revolved as a kind of private universe, a whitewashed cosmos within the blue greater one that blazed outside. From the aproned pot-scrubber to the flanneled potentate, everybody liked me, everybody petted me. Elderly American ladies leaning on their canes listed toward me like towers of Pisa. Ruined Russian princesses who could not pay my father, bought me expensive bonbons. He, mon cher petit papa, took me out boating and biking, taught me to swim and dive and water-ski, read to me Don Quixote and Les Mis?rables, and I adored and respected him and felt glad for him whenever I overheard the servants discuss his various lady-friends, beautiful and kind beings who made much of me and cooed and shed precious tears over my cheerful motherlessness.

I attended an English day school a few miles from home, and there I played rackets and fives, and got excellent marks, and was on perfect terms with schoolmates and teachers alike. The only definite sexual events that I can remember as having occurred before my thirteenth birthday (that is, before I first saw my little Annabel) were: a solemn, decorous and purely theoretical talk about pubertal surprises in the rose garden of the school with an American kid, the son of a then celebrated motion-picture actress whom he seldom saw in the three-dimensional world; and some interesting reactions on the part of my organism to certain photographs, pearl and umbra, with infinitely soft partings, in Pichon's sumptuous La Beaut? Humaine that I had filched from under a mountain of marble-bound Graphics in the hotel library. Later, in his delightful debonair manner, my father gave me all the information he thought I needed about sex; this was just before sending me, in the autumn of 1923, to a lyc?e in Lyon (where we were to spend three winters); but alas, in the summer of that year, he was touring Italy with Mme de R. and her daughter, and I had nobody to complain to, nobody to consult.


Annabel was, like the writer, of mixed parentage: half-English, half-Dutch, in her case. I remember her features far less distinctly today than I did a few years ago, before I knew Lolita. There are two kinds of visual memory: one when you skillfully recreate an image in the laboratory of your mind, with your eyes open (and then I see Annabel in such general terms as: "honey-colored skin," "thin arms," "brown bobbed hair," "long lashes," "big bright mouth"); and the other when you instantly evoke, with shut eyes, on the dark innerside of your eyelids, the objective, absolutely optical replica of a beloved face, a little ghost in natural colors (and this is how I see Lolita).

Let me therefore primly limit myself, in describing Annabel, to saying she was a lovely child a few months my junior. Her parents were old friends of my aunt's, and as stuffy as she. They had rented a villa not far from Hotel Mirana. Bald brown Mr. Leigh and fat, powdered Mrs. Leigh (born Vanessa van Ness). How I loathed them! At first, Annabel and I talked of peripheral affairs. She kept lifting handfuls of fine sand and letting it pour through her fingers. Our brains were turned the way those of intelligent European preadolescents were in our day and set, and I doubt if much individual genius should be assigned to our interest in the plurality of inhabited worlds, competitive tennis, infinity, solipsism and so on. The softness and fragility of baby animals caused us the same intense pain. She wanted to be a nurse in some famished Asiatic country; I wanted to be a famous spy.

All at once we were madly, clumsily, shamelessly, agonizingly in love with each other; hopelessly, I should add, because that frenzy of mutual possession might have been assuaged only by our actually imbibing and assimilating every particle of each other's soul and flesh; but there we were, unable even to mate as slum children would have so easily found an opportunity to do. After one wild attempt we made to meet at night in her garden (of which more later), the only privacy we were allowed was to be out of earshot but not out of sight on the populous part of the plage. There, on the soft sand, a few feet away from our elders, we would sprawl all morning, in a petrified paroxysm of desire, and take advantage of every blessed quirk in space and time to touch each other: her hand, half-hidden in the sand, would creep toward me, its slender brown fingers sleepwalking nearer and nearer; then, her opalescent knee would start on a long cautious journey; sometimes a chance rampart built by younger children granted us sufficient concealment to graze each other's salty lips; these incomplete contacts drove our healthy and inexperienced young bodies to such a state of exasperation that not even the cold blue water, under which we still clawed at each other, could bring relief.

Among some treasures I lost during the wanderings of my adult years, there was a snapshot taken by my aunt which showed Annabel, her parents and the staid, elderly, lame gentleman, a Dr. Cooper, who that same summer courted my aunt, grouped around a table in a sidewalk caf?. Annabel did not come out well, caught as she was in the act of bending over her chocolat glac?, and her thin bare shoulders and the parting in her hair were about all that could be identified (as I remember that picture) amid the sunny blur into which her lost loveliness graded; but I, sitting somewhat apart from the rest, came out with a kind of dramatic conspicuousness: a moody, beetle-browed boy in a dark sport shirt and well-tailored white shorts, his legs crossed, sitting in profile, looking away. That photograph was taken on the last day of our fatal summer and just a few minutes before we made our second and final attempt to thwart fate. Under the flimsiest of pretexts (this was our very last chance, and nothing really mattered) we escaped from the caf? to the beach, and found a desolate stretch of sand, and there, in the violet shadow of some red rocks forming a kind of cave, had a brief session of avid caresses, with somebody's lost pair of sunglasses for only witness. I was on my knees, and on the point of possessing my darling, when two bearded bathers, the old man of the sea and his brother, came out of the sea with exclamations of ribald encouragement, and four months later she died of typhus in Corfu.


I leaf again and again through these miserable memories, and keep asking myself, was it then, in the glitter of that remote summer, that the rift in my life began; or was my excessive desire for that child only the first evidence of an inherent singularity? When I try to analyze my own cravings, motives, actions and so forth, I surrender to a sort of retrospective imagination which feeds the analytic faculty with boundless alternatives and which causes each visualized route to fork and re-fork without end in the maddeningly complex prospect of my past. I am convinced, however, that in a certain magic and fateful way Lolita began with Annabel.

I also know that the shock of Annabel's death consolidated the frustration of that nightmare summer, made of it a permanent obstacle to any further romance throughout the cold years of my youth. The spiritual and the physical had been blended in us with a perfection that must remain incomprehensible to the matter-of-fact, crude, standard-brained youngsters of today. Long after her death I felt her thoughts floating through mine. Long before we met we had had the same dreams. We compared notes. We found strange affinities. The same June of the same year (1919) a stray canary had fluttered into her house and mine, in two widely separated countries. Oh, Lolita, had you loved me thus!

I have reserved for the conclusion of my "Annabel" phase the account of our unsuccessful first tryst. One night, she managed to deceive the vicious vigilance of her family. In a nervous and slender-leaved mimosa grove at the back of their villa we found a perch on the ruins of a low stone wall. Through the darkness and the tender trees we could see the arabesques of lighted windows which, touched up by the colored inks of sensitive memory, appear to me now like playing cards-presumably because a bridge game was keeping the enemy busy. She trembled and twitched as I kissed the corner of her parted lips and the hot lobe of her ear. A cluster of stars palely glowed above us, between the silhouettes of long thin leaves; that vibrant sky seemed as naked as she was under her light frock. I saw her face in the sky, strangely distinct, as if it emitted a faint radiance of its own. Her legs, her lovely live legs, were not too close together, and when my hand located what it sought, a dreamy and eerie expression, half-pleasure, half-pain, came over those childish features. She sat a little higher than I, and whenever in her solitary ecstasy she was led to kiss me, her head would bend with a sleepy, soft, drooping movement that was almost woeful, and her bare knees caught and compressed my wrist, and slackened again; and her quivering mouth, distorted by the acridity of some mysterious potion, with a sibilant intake of breath came near to my face. She would try to relieve the pain of love by first roughly rubbing her dry lips against mine; then my darling would draw away with a nervous toss of her hair, and then again come darkly near and let me feed on her open mouth, while with a generosity that was ready to offer her everything, my heart, my throat, my entrails, I gave her to hold in her awkward fist the scepter of my passion.

I recall the scent of some kind of toilet powder-I believe she stole it from her mother's Spanish maid-a sweetish, lowly, musky perfume. It mingled with her own biscuity odor, and my senses were suddenly filled to the brim; a sudden commotion in a nearby bush prevented them from overflowing-and as we draw away from each other, and with aching veins attended to what was probably a prowling cat, there came from the house her mother's voice calling her, with a rising frantic note-and Dr. Cooper ponderously limped out into the garden. But that mimosa grove-the haze of stars, the tingle, the flame, the honeydew, and the ache remained with me, and that little girl with her seaside limbs and ardent tongue haunted me ever since-until at last, twenty-four years later, I broke her spell by incarnating her in another.


The days of my youth, as I look back on them, seem to fly away from me in a flurry of pale repetitive scraps like those morning snow storms of used tissue paper that a train passenger sees whirling in the wake of the observation car. In my sanitary relations with women I was practical, ironical and brisk. While a college student, in London and Paris, paid ladies sufficed me. My studies were meticulous and intense, although not particularly fruitful. At first, I planned to take a degree in psychiatry as many manqu? talents do; but I was even more manqu? than that; a peculiar exhaustion, I am so oppressed, doctor, set in; and I switched to English literature, where so many frustrated poets end as pipe-smoking teachers in tweeds. Paris suited me. I discussed Soviet movies with expatriates. I sat with uranists in the Deux Magots. I published tortuous essays in obscure journals. I composed pastiches:

What People are Saying About This

John Updike

Nabokov writes prose the only way it should be written...that is, ecstatically.

Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, author biography, and bibliography that follow are designed to enhance your group's reading of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. We hope they will provide you with ways of looking at-and talking about-a novel that has become a permanent part of the American literary canon, and indeed of the American language, without losing its capacity to dazzle, baffle, and at times shock the unwary reader.

1. Lolita begins with an earnest foreword, purportedly written by one John Ray, Jr., Ph.D., author of Do the Senses Make Sense? (whose initials-- "J.R., Jr."-- echo as suspiciously as "Humbert Humbert"). Why might Nabokov have chosen to frame his novel in this fashion? What is the effect of knowing that the narrative's three main characters are already dead--and, in a sense, nonexistent, since their names have been changed?

2. Why might Nabokov have chosen to name his protagonist "Humbert Humbert"? Does the name's parodic double rumble end up distancing us from its owner's depravity? Is it harder to take evil seriously when it goes under an outlandish name? What uses, comic and poetic, does Nabokov make of this name in the course of Lolita?

3. Humbert's confession is written in an extraordinary language. It is by turns colloquial and archaic, erudite and stilted, florid and sardonic. It is studded with French expressions, puns in several other languages, and allusions to authors from Petrarch to Joyce. Is this language merely an extension of Nabokov's own--which the critic Michael Wood describes as "a fabulous, freaky, singing, acrobatic, unheard-of English" (Michael Wood, The Magician's Doubts: Nabokov and the Risks of Fiction. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995, p. 5.) --or is Humbert's language appropriate to his circumstances and motives? In what way does it obfuscate as much as it reveals? And if Humbert's prose is indeed a veil, at what points is this veil lifted and what do we glimpse behind it?

4. Humbert attributes his pedophilia (or "nympholepsy") to his tragically aborted childhood romance with Annabel Leigh. How far can we trust this explanation? How do we reconcile Humbert's reliance on the Freudian theory of psychic trauma with his corrosive disdain for psychiatrists?

5. In the early stages of his obsession Humbert sees Lolita merely as a new incarnation of Annabel, even making love to her on different beaches as he tries to symbolically consummate his earlier passion. In what other ways does Humbert remain a prisoner of the past? Does he ever succeed in escaping it? Why is Lolita singularly impervious to the past, to the extent that she can even shrug off the abuse inflicted on her by both Humbert and Quilty?

6. How does Humbert's marriage to Valeria foreshadow his relationships with both Charlotte and Lolita? How does the revelation of Valeria's infidelity prepare us for Lolita's elopement with Quilty? Why does Humbert respond so differently to these betrayals?

7. On page 31 we encounter the first of the "dazzling coincidences" that illuminate Lolita like flashes of lightning (or perhaps stage lightning), when Humbert flips through a copy of Who's Who in the Limelight in the prison library. What is the significance of each of the entries for "Roland Pym," "Clare Quilty," and "Dolores Quine." In what ways do their names, biographies, and credits prefigure the novel's subsequent developments? Who is the mysterious "Vivian Darkbloom," whose name is an anagram for "Vladimir Nabokov"? Where else in Lolita does Nabokov provide us with imaginary texts that seem to lend verisimilitude to Humbert's narrative and at the same time make us question the factuality of the world in which it is set?

8. Humbert Humbert is an émigré. Not only has he left Europe for America, but in the course of Lolita he becomes an erotic refugee, fleeing the stability of Ramsdale and Beardsley for a life in motel rooms and highway rest stops. How does this fact shape his responses to the book's other characters and their responses to him? To what extent is the America of Lolita an exile's America? In what ways is Humbert's foreignness a corollary of his perversion? Is it possible to see Lolita as Nabokov's veiled meditation on his own exile?

9. We also learn that Humbert is mad--mad enough, at least, to have been committed to several mental institutions, where he took great pleasure in misleading his psychiatrists. Is Humbert's madness an aspect of his sexual deviance or is it something more fundamental? Can we trust a story told by an insane narrator? What is Humbert's kinship with the "mad" narrators of such works as Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground and Gogol's Diary of a Madman?

10. What makes Charlotte Haze so repugnant to Humbert? Does the author appear to share Humbert's antagonism? Does he ever seem to criticize it? In what ways does Charlotte embody the Russian word poshlust which Nabokov translated as "not only the obviously trashy but also the falsely important, the falsely beautiful, the falsely clever, the falsely attractive?" (Cited by Alfred Appel, Jr., in The Annotated Lolita. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970, pp. xlix-1.)

11. To describe Lolita and other alluring young girls, Humbert coins the word "nymphet." The word has two derivations: the first from the Greek and Roman nature spirits, who were usually pictured as beautiful maidens dwelling in mountains, waters, and forests; the second from the entomologist's term for the young of an insect undergoing incomplete metamorphosis. Note the book's numerous allusions to fairy tales and spells; the proliferation of names like "Elphinstone," "Pisky," and "The Enchanted Hunters," as well as Humbert's repeated sightings of moths and butterflies. Also note that Nabokov was a passionate lepidopterist, who identified and named at least one new species of butterfly. How does the character of Lolita combine mythology and entomology? In what ways does Lolita resemble both an elf and an insect? What are some of this novel's themes of enchantment and metamorphosis as they apply both to Lolita and Humbert, and perhaps to the reader as well?

12. Before Humbert actually beds his nymphet, there is an extraordinary scene, at once rhapsodic, repulsive, and hilarious, in which Humbert excites himself to sexual climax while a (presumably) unaware Lolita wriggles in his lap. How is this scene representative of their ensuing relationship? What is the meaning of the sentence "Lolita had been safely solipsized" [p. 60], "solipsism" being the epistemological theory that the self is the sole arbiter of "reality"? Is all of Lolita the monologue of a pathological solipsist who is incapable of imagining any reality but his own or of granting other people any existence outside his own desires?

13. Can Humbert ever be said to "love" Lolita? Does he ever perceive her as a separate being? Is the reader ever permitted to see her in ways that Humbert cannot?

14. Humbert meets Lolita while she resides at 342 Lawn Street, seduces her in room 342 of The Enchanted Hunters, and in one year on the road the two of them check into 342 motels. Before Lolita begins her affair with Clare Quilty, her mother mentions his uncle Ivor, the town dentist, and sends Lolita to summer at Camp Q (near the propitiously named Lake Climax). These are just a few of the coincidences that make Lolita so profoundly unsettling. Why might Nabokov deploy coincidence so liberally in this book? Does he use it as a convenient way of advancing plot or in order to call the entire notion of a "realistic" narrative into question? How do Nabokov's games of coincidence tie in with his use of literary allusion (see Questions 4, 15, and 16) and self-reference (see Question 7)?

15. Having plotted Charlotte's murder and failed to carry it out, Humbert is rid of her by means of a bizarre, and bizarrely fortuitous, accident. Is this the only time that fate makes a spectacular intrusion on Humbert's behalf? Are there occasions when fate conspires to thwart him? Is the fate that operates in this novel--a fate so preposterously hyperactive that Humbert gives it a name-- actually an extension of Humbert's will, perhaps of his unconscious will? Is Humbert in a sense guilty of Charlotte's death? Discuss the broader question of culpability as it resonates throughout this book.

16. Quilty makes his first onstage appearance at The Enchanted Hunters, just before Humbert beds Lolita for the first time. Yet rumors and allusions precede him. Does the revelation of Quilty's identity come as a surprise? Is it the true climax of Lolita? How does Nabokov prepare us for this revelation? Since the mystery of Quilty's identity turns this novel into a kind of detective story (in which the protagonist is both detective and criminal), it may be useful to compare Lolita to other examples of the genre, such as Poe's The Purloined Letter, Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, or Agatha Christie's A Murder Is Announced, all of which are alluded to in the text.

17. Among our early clues about Quilty is his resemblance to Humbert (or Humbert's resemblance to him). This resemblance is one of the reasons that Lolita finds her mother's boarder attractive, and we are reminded of it later on when Humbert believes for a brief time that Quilty may be his uncle Trapp. How does Quilty conform to the archetype of the double or Doppelgänger? In its literary incarnations, a double may represent the protagonist's evil underself or his higher nature. What sort of double is Quilty? Are we ever given the impression that Humbert may be Quilty's double?

18. If we accept Humbert at his word, Lolita initiates their first sexual encounter, seducing him after he has balked at violating her in her sleep. Yet later Humbert admits that Lolita sobbed in the night--"every night, every night--the moment I feigned sleep" [p. 176]. Should we read this reversal psychologically: that what began as a game for Lolita has now become a terrible and inescapable reality? Or has Humbert been lying to us from the first? What is the true nature of the crimes committed against Lolita? Does Humbert ever genuinely repent them, or is even his remorse a sham? Does Lolita forgive Humbert or only forget him?

19. Humbert is not only Lolita's debaucher but her stepfather and, after Charlotte's death, the closest thing she has to a parent. What kind of parent is he? How does his behavior toward the girl increasingly come to resemble Charlotte's? Why, during their last meeting, does Lolita dismiss the erotic aspect of their relationship and "grant" only that Humbert was a good father?

20. As previously mentioned, Lolita abounds with games: the games Humbert plays with his psychiatrists, his games of chess with Gaston Godin, the transcontinental games of tag and hide-and-go-seek that Quilty plays with Humbert, and the slapstick game of Quilty's murder. There is Humbert's poignant outburst, "I have only words to play with!" [p. 32]. In what way does this novel itself resemble a vast and intricate game, a game played with words? Is Nabokov playing with his readers or against them? How does such an interpretation alter your experience of Lolita? Do its game-like qualities detract from its emotional seriousness or actually heighten it?

21. The last lines of Lolita are: "I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita" [p. 309]. What is the meaning of this passage? What does art offer Humbert and his beloved that sexual passion cannot? Is this aesthetic appeal merely the mask with which Humbert conceals or justifies his perversion, or is the immortality of art the thing that Humbert and his creator have been seeking all along? In what ways is Lolita at once a meditation on, and a re-creation of, the artistic process?


This is a story that many people imagine they will find distasteful, especially in these days where the subject of pedophilia is so much in the public consciousness. I believe, however, that it has a place both as a piece of literature and as a film script. In today's society if we cannot understand human behavior, then how can we change it? How can we judge it? How can we educate our children about it?

The scope of Nabokov's story is as much about his relationship as a European, with this new, young, exciting country of America. Humbert Humbert, a rather weak and misguided man, steps outside our society's morality and for that he is punished. There are many levels on which to view the film. This script is merely the map of the film's landscape. It is a film which I believe should rest among the best of American cinema. It should be judged for what it is by a mature audience. Art, and I include cinema in that, should make us question and test our values and make us understand why we have the laws we do.

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Lolita (SparkNotes Literature Guide Series) 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 440 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book--already in love with the prose of Vladimir Nabokov--and I find almost every main character disgusting, vile, almost inhuman, but I could not put the book down. The beauty of the writing, the rhythmic flow of the descriptions, the tender gestures of the nymphet Dolores Haze, the subtlties of Nabokov's aliteration, the fluidness of instances, the sheer ability to run rapidly through dozens and dozens of scenes while keeping us 'or shall I say, Dear reader!' envisioned with Humbert, and his escapades around the America Vistas. The paradox, is here we have a book that revolts me in every physical way, but, the style, the rhythm, the cadence, the damn confidence! of Nabokov is enough to make me read on about our dear monster, and his Lolita!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
THIS BOOK IS AMAZING! Something that stands next to this on my fav list TOO CRAZY TO LIVE TOO BEAUTIFUL TO DIE! XO Great book
Ewa_G More than 1 year ago
Lolita is a twisted story of lust and adoration. Humbert Humbert, becomes obsessed with his landlord's daughter out of some similarity to his childhood lover. He then marries his landlord, Mrs. Haze, in order to stay close to her daughter, Dolores the nymphet. After finding out about Humbert's lust for her daughter, Mrs. Haze is killed when she runs out of her house in hysterics and is struck by a car. The rest of the book proceeds with Humbert and Lolita's travels across America. The book is from Humbert's perspective and gives the reader some insight into the mind of a pedophile. Humbert prohibits her from having a normal childhood, perhaps because she is not a normal child. The reader understands his lust for this particular young girl. Even though Humbert's obsession with Lolita is perverse, it is still tragic when he loses her to another pedophile. The reader actually feels sorry for Humbert, the truly pathetic character that he is. Lolita is a very interesting book and Nabokov wrote it well. It is by no means a comedy, yet in all the drama of Humbert and Lolita's illicit affair, I leave out love because by no means did she feel that towards him. The situations with Mrs. Haze do supply some comic relief to an altogether catastrophic story. I chose this book because it is a classic, and I feel the need to read the classics. There were parts of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The novel has all the makings of a great story, for it includes all the components love, hate, death, sexuality, deceit, and violence, which altogether make Lolita very absorbing. However, there are slow parts with continuous descriptions that seem to go on for pages. These detailed descriptions left me bored for some time as I read. I did enjoy the story line and I found the situation these two characters found themselves in fascinating. I sometimes got stuck in the slow parts and felt uninspired to continue. I would recommend Lolita to someone as long as they are prepared for what is in store: intrigue interrupted by ongoing attention to detail. Nabokov revolutionized literature by addressing a previously taboo topic, making way for this very situation to be depicted in movies, TV shows, and other literature.
Taylor-Marie More than 1 year ago
Never had I read a novel that seduced me so much into the story that I forgot that it was about a pedophile. Portrayed as a testimony to the reader from Humbert Humbert, Nabokov gives us a disturbing yet entrancing tale into the pedophile's thoughts with a brilliant prose style and almost makes the reader sympathize with him and agree with him in many parts of the novel. Readers should pick up this novel and read one of the most brilliantly written love stories.
FocoProject More than 1 year ago
A classic and one that I had placed in my list for a long while now and just never dared to buy. As Nabokov explains through his fictional introduction, this book is not pornographic and so, if that is what you are expecting, you better put the book down and go read something else. This is in fact¿a love story. Not to say it is not a messed up love story, because it is about a fully adult male and a twelve year old girl, which¿regardless of how you look at it, is all sorts of wrong.

The interesting thing here, is that if you replace pedophilia with just about any other romance, it becomes one hell of a romantic concept. What Nabokov has done is gone for the jugular and touched on the most unacceptable of taboos and in turn given it one of the most beautifully worded romance stories. But¿I do underscore the romance, which, initially was beginning to wear on me. While this looked to be a happy story, I actually considered putting the book down, mostly because I do not do romance so well. This too, Nabokov seems to have planned nicely, because just as I though this book may be too much of a love story for me, the author throws in the wrench into everything he has methodically built up. And in my opinion, that saves the story, where the happy ending seems forever ruined and the mystery begins.

Having now finished and being able to contemplate it from afar, the book rounds up nicely. It does some things with language which are just absolutely stunning and while I could do with a little bit less of romance and a bit more of the mystery, I do think this is a very good book and recognize it as such.
Baomei More than 1 year ago
It's not an easy book to read; nevertheless, it's a great novel. I wouldn't recommend it to just anyone. Only to those who can appreciate literature in more than one way.
Hannibal_Gambit More than 1 year ago
This book ranks number 3 on my most beloved books, I normally take the book if it has an interesting cover so when i saw this horrible one I immediatly looked for another. The novel is absolutley superb in evey single way exept for the cover! When I read this in my fourth year of High School I was getting laughed at for reading a seemingly "Girl Book". This is one of the problems with the cover! It will turn down male readers, in which the text is applied to, and make them not want to read it...this book was also fun to parade around the school for the very reason that it made a lot of teachers uncomftrable, esspecially the Democrats that want things to be politicaly correct. I highly reccomend this novel to anyone who wants to see the mind of a pedophile in vivid detail.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I highly recommend the annotated version of Lolita. Appel's notes on the book bring the full genius of Nabokov's writing to the reader, as well as making a lot of the literary references and French clear. It is easy to be disgusted to distraction by Humbert Humbert, but the humor of the novel kept me reading.
Mariamosis More than 1 year ago
'Lolita', for me, elevated Vladimir Nabokov's status to a 20th century icon! This is by far one of the best books I have read all year! The subject material may be a little difficult to enter into for some, but persevere because this narrative is well worth it. I am now on a quest to read everything written by Nabokov!
Guest More than 1 year ago
¿I found myself maturing amid a civilization which allows a man of twenty five to court a girl of sixteen but not a girl of twelve¿. But it¿s perhaps the truth? The society in which we live doesn¿t accept that for love there is no age. It¿s possible that we are so close-minded to recognize the love that an older person can feel to a young one. This is exactly what Navokov¿s book achieves. But not only the book captivate you for the simple fact that ois a critique to the society.It¿s necessary to admit the exceptional work that the author of the book realized. Nabokov dis an excellent narrative, and every time you read it you will know another thing, so you will continue reading it. In fact, I must confess that it¿s very strange that a book captivates me, but his one did it. This phenomenon happens because Lolita is a different book, and I said this because you don¿t read all the days that an older guy is in love with a girl of 15 years. Humbert relates his peaceful upbringing on the Riviera, where he encounters his first love, the twelve-year-old Annabel Leigh. Annabel and the thirteen-year-old Humbert never consummate their love, and Annabel¿s death from typhus four months later haunts Humbert. Eventually, Humbert comes to the United States and takes a room in the house of Widow Charlotte Haze in a sleepy, suburban New England town. He becomes instantly infatuated with her twelve-year-old daughter Dolores, also known as Lolita. Humbert follows Lolita¿s moves constantly, occasionally flirts with her, and confides his pedophiliac longings to a journal. Lolia has been one of he best books that I have read and though in some moments a bit grotesque and disagreeable moments returns to fulfill all my expectations. Lolita is a book which I recommend widely.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a very good book about the very serious crime of child molesters/rapists. Though this book was of serious matter and Humbert Humbert disgusts me and poor Delores "Lolita" and what she had to go through breaks my heart. The author is an amazing writer and he makes the story flow eloquently. It was over all a very good book, no curses and no explicit details of the sexual relations, it was written tactfully.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great mastery of English, French, and Russian. If you can deal with its pedophilic romance and gruesome, pathetic murder scenes, I highly recommend you give it a try.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The author manages to make you laugh as well as feel sorry for a pedophile while creating such a story that you can't put the book down till you've finished it. If you don't have a weak stomach, this is one of the best novels you'll read.
prialba10 More than 1 year ago
If you read Lolita, you will find yourself sympathizing with a pedophile. Let that sink in. 
Isabelleoliviaa More than 1 year ago
Its horrifying and captivating all at once. I definitely recommend it!
ASteck220 More than 1 year ago
When first introduced to the novel of Lolita, I skimmed the back cover to see what the text was actually about. At first, I was hesitant to read this novel, mostly due to the more serious nature of it (don't get me wrong, I love books and movies that make me think), but as I started reading the first chapters, I realized I could not put it down. Nabokov's style is prevalent throughout the entire novel and his imagination created, in my opinion, one of the best books I have ever read. I know that in 20 years from now, this book will be on my shelf. The way Humbert starts his affection for Lolita, the difficulties he faces with Charlotte...I don't want to reveal too much, but it's definitely worth your time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lolita is a twisted story of lust and adoration. Humbert Humbert, becomes obsessed with his landlord¿s daughter out of some similarity to his childhood lover. He then marries his landlord, Mrs. Haze, in order to stay close to her daughter, Dolores the nymphet. As his obsession spirals out of control, Dolores becomes Lolita and his wife becomes obsolete. After finding out about Humbert¿s lust for her daughter Mrs. Haze is killed when she runs out of her house in hysterics and is struck by a car. The rest of the book proceeds with Humbert and Lolita¿s travels across America. The book is from Humbert¿s perspective and gives the reader some insight into the mind of a pedophile. We see what he is willing to do and how far he is willing to go to keep his Lolita all for himself. He sacrifices her happiness and mental development by setting up strict rules that she must follow. Humbert prohibits her from having a normal childhood, perhaps because she is not a normal child. The reader understands his lust for this particular young girl. Even though Humbert¿s obsession with Lolita is perverse, it is still tragic when he loses her to another pedophile. The reader actually feels sorry for Humbert, the truly pathetic character that he is. Despite the subject matter, the novel is not vulgar, nor is it truly about sex. While Lolita¿s seduction of Humbert and Humbert¿s seduction of Lolita are noted there is no hint of graphic pornography. Lolita is a very interesting book and Nabokov wrote it well. It is by no means a comedy, yet in all the drama of Humbert and Lolita¿s illicit affair, I leave out love because by no means did she feel that towards him. The situations with Mrs. Haze do supply some comic relief to an altogether catastrophic story. I chose this book because it is a ¿classic,¿ and I feel the need to read ¿the classics.¿ There were parts of this book that I thoroughly enjoyed. The novel has all the makings of a great story, for it includes all the components love, hate, death, sexuality, deceit, and violence, which altogether make Lolita very intriguing. However, there are slow parts with continuous descriptions that seem to go on for pages. These detailed descriptions left me bored for some time as I read. I did enjoy the story line and I found the situation these two characters found themselves in fascinating. In retrospect I would say I enjoyed Lolita, but while reading it I felt differently. I sometimes got stuck in the slow parts and felt uninspired to continue. I would recommend Lolita to someone as long as they are prepared for what is in store: intrigue interrupted by ongoing attention to detail. Nabokov revolutionized literature by addressing a previously taboo topic, making way for this very situation to be depicted in movies, TV shows, and other literature.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Lolita is a magnificent book, written excellently by a superb author. It is not about sex, as I believe someone named Lionel Trilling has noted. It is not pornographic, nor sadistic. The book is about a man who loved, cherished, and lived for his adopted stepdaughter. All other nymphets of Humbert Humbert's are just mirages images glass that you cannot touch in the store without fear of breaking it. But Lolita was his one true love, and he punished all that would not see it that way. Even his fantasy that he would have the same relations with Lolita's daughter and her granddaughter can be explained: he thought he had to reincarnate her in another form, due to his pedophiliac craving. Granted, Humbert was responsible for the death of Lolita's mother, and he did not love her. He was not even a true pedophile...for he had sex with both his wives, and that was not just for show. But he did love his darling Lolita, and I commend Vladimir Nabokov for this outstanding book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This novel is definitely a must read. The story is very well written & captivating, that you never want it to end.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The book is a marvelous, well-crafted work of art. The annotations provide guidance, discussion, clarification, edification, and entertainment - and will be helpful to those who enjoy reading good literature but did not study literature in college. This is heavily annotated, with a lengthy inroduction. Annotations range from 'typographical error corrected in 1958 edition' to page-long explanations of literary allusions, and even statistics. Annotations are all collected at the end, so you may read the book through the first time without being interrupted by Appel's explanations. Appel was a student of Nabokov's and interviewed Nabokov extensively for these annotations. Read the introduction after you read the book - you'll get more out of the introduction.
Guest More than 1 year ago
'Lolita' is an amazing book not so much for the storyline and subject matter but for the WORDS. Nabokov's use of imagery and language is profound (esp. considering English is his second language). Humbert is a captivating character and the book is an overall fun read - not only is it humorous but there are many word puzzels hidden inside it to figure out. Any reader could fall in love with 'Lolita', and learn a lot from it as well (as far as writing style goes... not morally!).
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is one of the finest novels ever written. The language is eloquent and the emotions strong. It is not at all vulgar, but instead it is humorous and fascinating.
Anonymous 19 days ago
In the beginning I found it rather hard to follow along. I either got better at reading the style, or it changed closer to the middle. The topic is hard to read about, br overall it was a good book.
Anonymous 3 months ago
The writing style was so lovely. I simply loved this book!
runnergirl83 6 months ago
About a month or so ago I read Rust & Stardust, which I found out was based on the true story of a young girl abducted by a pedophile and and then being mentally and physically assaulted for two years. Horrifying and sad. It was mentioned that Vladimir Nabokov was inspired by that true story when he wrote Lolita. Humbert Humbert has fallen in love with Lolita, a 12-year-old. He marries her mother in order to be close to her. After her mother dies, he takes her on a road trip. The book is narrated from Humbert's point of view, so it's angled his way. He makes it sound like the 12-year-old is the one who seduced him and how he is the victim. It's a bit twisted to read. I have mixed feelings about this book. It ended up to be a quick read, the book is well-written. But he's a pedophile lusting after a child which is just wrong and disturbing. It was almost like a train wreck that you just couldn't stop reading. I wanted to find out what happened to Lolita, if she was ever able to get free and away from Humbert.