Lolita – a discussion paper

Written by Vladimir Nabokov in 1955, once controversial fiction, Lolita now is one of the classics.

 “Lolita was first published in Paris in 1955 after being rejected by numerous American publishers because of its controversial subject matter. Once released in the United States in 1958, however, Lolita proved a tremendous critical and commercial success, remaining at the top of the American bestseller list for six months. When asked by an interviewer in 1964 if he regretted publishing Lolita because of the notoriety it brought him, Nabokov answered, ‘On the contrary, I shudder retrospectively when I recall that there was a moment, in 1950, and again in 1951, when I was on the point of burning Humbert Humbert’s little black diary. No, I shall never regret Lolita. She was like the composition of a beautiful puzzle — its composition and its solution at the same time, since one is a mirror view of the other, depending on the way you look. Of course she completely eclipsed my other works — at least those I wrote in English: The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Bend Sinister, my short stories, my book of recollections; but I cannot grudge her this. There is a queer, tender charm about that mythical nymphet.’  (Reviewed on NoveList Plus databases:

The First Wednesday Reading Group discussed this book in their monthly meeting. Some  members had read this book when they were younger. At the time they thought Lolita was manipulative rather than young and innocent. Re reading the book now they felt Lolita was obnoxious and just as bad as Humbert. However some thought the book was very interesting and insightful. Although Humbert had an obsessive love for Lolita, they didn’t think that Lolita had any romantic attraction to Humbert. Some members felt the book contained humorous descriptions of events that happened and it made the book more readable. The character Humbert was regarded as an intellectual snob who wanted to maintain superiority over the reader as well as the character in the book. Some members felt that Humbert’s final contact with Lolita when he gave her money and advised her to leave her husband with ‘no strings attached’, revealed a sense of decency.

Interestingly, the group was divided, some thought the book was a classic which should definitely be read. The other found the writing style and subject matter were too difficult to persevere with.

 Those that felt the book was a classic found the psychological insights into the subject matter make it worth reading.  

(Edited according to the discussion notes)