I don’t know why and how I manage to add Vladimir Nabokov’s 1955 novel Lolita to my audiobook wish-list. But a couple of weeks ago when I was trying to clean-up my horribly oversized wish-list, working my way up from the bottom – I ended up downloading this book to my phone.
After the first 30 minutes, I told myself I wasn’t going to listen to this anymore. As after the foreword and first few minutes of the narrative, I knew that morally this was not a book or topic I wanted to be engrossing in. I’ve admitted in the past that I virtually listen to anything and what I am is an eclectic reader- but a story of hebephilia?
But curiosity is the darndest thing, knowing that I shouldn’t be doing something? So I found myself sneakily listening on, until my wife told me that she had already read-up on Lolita from Wikipedia (btw I tell her everything) and she was aware of how the book was going to unfold and left me with a warning to not get too caught up in it.
I’m not going to recount the novel, as it contains R-levels of adult themes, but at least the book does not contain actual sex scenes like modern day books – just hints and some seriously heavy adult themes.
The audiobook which I listened to was read by Jeremy Irons, who captured perfectly the neurotic nature of Humbert Humbert the protagonist of the novel. Aside from the themes, the novel isn’t an easy read either, with much word play, double entendres, multilingual puns, anagrams and the use of made-up terms (which has become apart of our modern day language) – therefore there are parts which required much concentration to be able to follow on with Humbert’s crazed narrative.
But what the book Lolita did get me thinking about, was the concept of attraction, or the more sinister term……. Fetish. How strange it all is, how and why people are attracted to what they are attracted to. It was the first time I’d heard someone explain why an adult could be sexually attracted to an early pubescent teen. According to the book, Humbert as an early teen had fallen for a girl his own age, but she had died that same year from a disease (which we have now eradicated in the modern day). But due to this early impression on him, Humbert finds himself attracted to other early teenage girls he meets in the future who reminds him of his first love. And the sad thing for him, was that as the years went by and he grew older and older, the source of his attraction still remained the same age. A seemingly innocent thing when you’re 14 years of age, but something oh-so-illegal in all 50 states when you’re 40-50 years old.
For me, seeing things through this perspective, gave me a slightly new insight into monsters like paedophiles and hebephiliacs. You have to feel the slightest sense of pity for these people if you think about it. If we’re honest with ourselves, we all have our ‘fetishes’, don’t we? Be that an attraction to blondes, or Asians, or knee-high boots or whatever? But for the majority 99% of us, we have to be thankful that our attraction remains on the right side of the law. So you’d have to feel some sorrow for those poor sods who find themselves like Humbert Humbert, horribly attracted to something which society condemns. I don’t like what you’re doing Humbert Humbert, and that’s just not right. But I can’t judge, ‘he who is sinless, cast the first stone’.
Lolita is a strange book indeed, not a book that I’d happily recommend to others, but surprisingly thought-provoking and a bit of a page-turner.