Lolita is simultaneously a very easy yet very difficult book to read.
It is easy in the sense that its prose and storytelling are obviously the work of an adept wordsmith, portraying feeling and setting with a dash of romanticism and easygoing French. The language is easy to understand, and it is oh so easy to fall into the text and follow the tendrils of this story.
The characters themselves are not shown as angels and devils; they’re presented as characteristically human, each with their own faults. It is surprisingly realistic as a work of fiction, and the fact that the sinner is not ashamed to talk of his sin brings a kind of sincerity and reality to the novel.
It is, as expected, the subject matter that makes the moralist’s stomach churn. After all, for a man of advanced age to talk about how he lusts for his prepubescent nymphets is not at all considered appropriate, and can be considered a crime in certain cultures (though accepting in others).
The interesting thing is that he does talk about the old (and existing) societies that accept having girl/boy-children as lovers. He cites ancient history and recent stories to back up this claim, although he himself is quick to note how it is taboo for majority of humanity today.
As a matter of fact, the push and pull he himself has with regards to his desires is quite the sight. It’s not exactly a Jekyll/Hyde kind of arrangement; it’s more of a quiet exasperation after the long attempts of correcting his world views and becoming a morally upright citizen of a global society.
To see his interaction, therefore, with Lolita, from the initial hesitation to the dangerous plunge, is a fascinating journey.
It’s sickening, it’s depraved, it’s unethical. And yet, it’s spoken by a damned poet gifted with a silver tongue and self-awareness, knowing straight away that he is no hero and that his deeds are blasphemous.
It’s not an easy book to read, and yet it’s one you can’t help but keep reading. A delight, a disgust, a masterpiece.
Review first written March 31, 2019.