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Old 02-16-2013, 12:01 PM   #31
crich70
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What an interesting thought Chrich! I'm just back from a walk, and as usual I was thinking about the book I just read and wondered about what made him write such a "different" book at that time! And what made him do it the way he did: Letting Humbert tell his story the way he did and by doing so expose him.

(I'm sorry I can't put proper words to my thoughts in English. Even though I read without difficulty I don't actually use English myself except for in forums, so my vocabulary is very limited when it comes to expressing "deeper" things.)
No problem. I was able to understand your meaning very well.
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Old 02-16-2013, 12:52 PM   #32
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What an interesting thought Chrich! I'm just back from a walk, and as usual I was thinking about the book I just read and wondered about what made him write such a "different" book at that time! And what made him do it the way he did: Letting Humbert tell his story the way he did and by doing so expose him.

(I'm sorry I can't put proper words to my thoughts in English. Even though I read without difficulty I don't actually use English myself except for in forums, so my vocabulary is very limited when it comes to expressing "deeper" things.)
Ditto on both counts. I didn' t think of that. Interesting, Crich.

( and I sometimes can't believe my mistakes in grammar and syntax...)

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Old 02-16-2013, 03:13 PM   #33
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Ditto on both counts. I didn' t think of that. Interesting, Crich.

( and I sometimes can't believe my mistakes in grammar and syntax...)
Don't feel to bad desertblues, the thought just occurred to me just today when I read a short bio about him over at Wikipedia.It listed the years he had moved (from Russia to Germany etc) and the thought came to me that he had probably seen plenty of corruption in government both before he came to the U.S. and afterward. Certainly McCarthy wasn't any prize from what I understand.
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Old 02-17-2013, 01:17 PM   #34
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I thought the references to Poe intriguing. Humbert’s first sexual experience is with a young girl his own age named Annabel Leigh. One immediately is reminded of the poem “Annabel Lee” by Poe. Annabel Lee of the poem is based on Poe’s own child-wife and first cousin, Virginia Eliza Clemm who was 13 at the time they were married--around the same age as Humbert and his Annabel when they were having their affair. Further, Lolita is 12 when Humbert seduces her and at the motel he signs himself in under the name of “Edgar”. Poe’s subject is a “maiden” who died young--as did Humbert’s Annabel. The love has an implied taboo quality:

“But we loved with a love that was more than love -
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.”

and

“But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we --
Of many far wiser than we --“

Humbert and Annabel hide their relationship from their parents--it is a secret love affair.

The love goes beyond death but is described in a way that has a very weird quality that is quite abnormal:

“And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling --my darling --my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea --
In her tomb by the sounding sea.”

The intensely passionate lines gloss over what seems close to necrophilia. The speaker does not “lie down” by the sepulchre but beside the corpse.

The love affair of Humbert and Annabel also takes place near the sea and there are unmistakable verbal allusions; Nabokov echoes the poem when he says:

“When I was a child and she was a child, my little Annabel . . . .”

Poe writes:

"I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:"


Now it is important to realize that the situations of Poe and Humbert have quite significant differences:

1. There is fairly good reason to believe that Poe and Virginia had a relationship which was not consummated and was more akin to that of a brother and sister--he referred to her as “Sissy” for instance.

2. There is no doubt but that Poe and Virginia had a very deep affection for each other.

3. Virginia lived until she was twenty-three and died of Tuberculosis in 1847.

4. Her death caused Poe to go into a very deep depression from which he never fully recovered and was dead himself within two years.


So why does Nabokov {who did have a great regard for Poe’s work} make the allusions?

It could be that, perhaps, he is underlining the dark, unnatural nature of Humbert’s obsession with nymphettes in general and Lolita in particular through the use of this inter-textuality--much as Joyce does with Homer {though with a different purpose} in Ulysses.

Anyone have any ideas on the subject?

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Old 02-17-2013, 07:02 PM   #35
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Interesting thoughts here, fantasyfan. I have to say that when reading the book, my feeling was that Humbert was always trying to justify his actions by saying "See, these people had sex with children, so that makes it all right". And of course he likes literary allusions to show how cultivated he is.
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Old 02-21-2013, 06:27 PM   #36
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So I read this book at a much slower pace than is normal for me with other books. I wanted to savor the writing. Not to mention staying near a computer while doing so in order to at least make use of Google translation for all the passages in French, though sadly said means was not up to the task of conveying what the author intended. So that's my first comment having nothing to do with the story and its subject matter. Just brilliant writing by Nabokov. All the more to think that English was likely his at least third new language after his native Russian. I've not read much by him, but will now.

So proceeding on to the discussion of the book with much thanks to the interesting observations already raised by others . . .

It was certainly disturbing reading the story though the eyes of an almost completely unapologetic pedophile. I would go further than to just execrate him for his sexual abuse of a 12 year old child. I do not know if all pedophiles whose attraction is to young girls are also misogynists, but Humbert certainly was. Was there any female character, and here I include Dolores Haze that he was really only sexually attracted to, that he felt any real affection or respect for? On the contrary I was overwhelmed by his near universal dislike and contempt for almost every female character he encountered, including his two wives. Even at the end when he attempts to show concern for Dolores and wish her well he still imagines himself her protector instead of her abuser, and attributes more noble motives to himself than to Claire Quilty despite the fact that if Quilty was to be believed Quilty never actually had sex with Dolores. In this he believes that he should only be convicted of the crime rape, Quilty's murder being justified.

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For reasons that may appear more obvious than they really are, I am opposed to capital punishment; this attitude will be, I trust, shared by the sentencing judge. Had I come before myself, I would have given Humbert at least thirty-five years for rape, and dismissed the rest of the charges. But even so, Dolly Schiller will probably survive me by many years. The following decision I make with all the legal impact and support of a signed testament: I wish this memoir to be published only when Lolita is no longer alive.

Thus, neither of us is alive when the reader opens this book. But while the blood still throbs through my writing hand, you are still as much part of blessed matter as I am, and I can still talk to you from here to Alaska. Be true to your Dick. Do not let other fellows touch you. Do not talk to strangers. I hope you will love your baby. I hope it will be a boy. That husband of yours, I hope, will always treat you well, because otherwise my specter shall come at him, like black smoke, like a demented giant, and pull him apart nerve by nerve. And do not pity C. Q. One had to choose between him and H. H., and one wanted H. H. to exist at least a couple of months longer, so as to have him make you live in the minds of later generations. 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.

It is also just creepy that he imagines himself Dolores protector in the future as well as the two of them sharing immortality together. So Humbert is a character that is impossible to like, and yet Nabokov does manage to at least make the reader understand his sick compulsion. In a way I am reminded of, from the excellent Friz Lang film “M,” the final plea by Hans Beckert (played by Peter Lorre) before the kangaroo court of criminals that means to sentence him to death for the murder of a number of young children:


Quote:
Hans Beckert: I can't help what I do! I can't help it, I can't...

Criminal: The old story! We never can help it in court!

Hans Beckert: What do you know about it? Who are you anyway? Who are you? Criminals? Are you proud of yourselves? Proud of breaking safes or cheating at cards? Things you could just as well keep your fingers off. You wouldn't need to do all that if you'd learn a proper trade or if you'd work. If you weren't a bunch of lazy bastards. But I... I can't help myself! I have no control over this, this evil thing inside of me, the fire, the voices, the torment!

Schraenker: Do you mean to say that you have to murder?

Hans Beckert: It's there all the time, driving me out to wander the streets, following me, silently, but I can feel it there. It's me, pursuing myself! I want to escape, to escape from myself! But it's impossible. I can't escape, I have to obey it. I have to run, run... endless streets. I want to escape, to get away! And I'm pursued by ghosts. Ghosts of mothers and of those children... they never leave me. They are always there... always, always, always!, except when I do it, when I... Then I can't remember anything. And afterwards I see those posters and read what I've done, and read, and read... did I do that? But I can't remember anything about it! But who will believe me? Who knows what it's like to be me? How I'm forced to act... how I must, must... don't want to, must! Don't want to, but must! And then a voice screams! I can't bear to hear it! I can't go on! I can't... I can't...

Like Beckert one wants Humbert punished, wants to be sure he will never be able to harm another child, but has to at least give some acknowledgment to the irresistible obsession that drives him.

Sorry about the long post, but I want to get everything currently in my head down before I lose it. So on to my thoughts on some of the previous comments here.

I agree that it is off base to blame Dolores for Humbert's action. Whatever seductive behavior—in Humbert's eyes only or in reality—Dolores engages in it was just what is normal for female child of her age, not something that a middle age man who has become her surrogate father and on whom she is dependent should have in anyway have taken as justification to act on. It is interesting that Dolores refers to their first sexual coupling as rape and always expresses their sex as something distasteful, yet Humbert rationalizes that away.

As Desert Blues noted part of Dolores' tragedy was not just that Humbert by devious means entered her life, but that she had a mother who was jealous of her own daughter and when she found out about Humbert's desires her concern was not so much for her daughter, but anger at her own betrayal.



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You also have to wonder if he's really talking about Lolita or the need for thngs to be exposed on a broader level. I mean he was born in Russia and then from around 1920 to 1937 his family lived in Germany. So he lived under the early communists and the nazi's before coming to the U.S. And with McCarthy and his hearings you have to wonder if he was trying to stir up a hornets nest about how corruption hides away and then tries to excuse itself when it is found out. He seems to have picked a controversial story setup for what back then must have seemed a controversial idea. That of exposing such corruption I mean.
Interesting ideas there Crich70. As another thought I would quote Nabokov from his own notes at the end of my ebook version on the difficulty he had in getting an American company to publish it in around 1955::


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Certain techniques in the beginning of Lolita (Humbert’s Journal, for example) misled some of my first readers into assuming that this was going to be a lewd book. They expected the rising succession of erotic scenes; when these stopped, the readers stopped, too, and felt bored and let down. This, I suspect, is one of the reasons why not all the four firms read the typescript to the end. Whether they found it pornographic or not did not interest me. Their refusal to buy the book was based not on my treatment of the theme but on the theme itself, for there are at least three themes which are utterly taboo as far as most American publishers are concerned. The two others are: a Negro-White marriage which is a complete and glorious success resulting in lots of children and grandchildren; and the total atheist who lives a happy and useful life, and dies in his sleep at the age of 106.
So true of America in the 1950s!

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Originally Posted by BelleZora View Post

-snip-

Davies' view was similar to that of Graham Greene when he chillingly wrote in 1937 of 8-year-old Shirley Temple: "Her admirers – middle-aged men and clergymen – respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire." He implied that she deliberately played to an audience of vulnerable men.

Young boys have also been victim, not only of salacious older men and women, but of powerful organizations that protected the adult and not the child. It is only in recent decades that the scarred prey have felt safe enough from further condemnation by the prevailing culture to expose the predators.

So Dolores was on her own. Her mother was dead and she questioned Humbert's part in that death. She surely feared for her own life when Humbert no longer wanted her.

I applaud Nabokov's theme. Nothing changes until it is exposed.

I would like to comment on how laws and society have changed with respect to and adult having sex with a minor. When Jerry Lee Lewis [Lewis was 22 at the time] married his 13-year old first cousin in 1958 it was controversial, and temporarily killed his music career, that was temporary and there was never suggestion that he face criminal charges. Today though, except in certain countries in the Middle East and Central Asia, and certainly in the United States statutory rape charges would apply to even consensual sex with a girl under sixteen, and the man would be registered as a sex offender. In some ways this may have gone too far, for example labeling a 17-year old boy as a sex offender for sex with his 15-year old girlfriend. On the other hand when I look at how young girls, some very young hardly more than toddlers, are portrayed in some sexually suggestive ways in advertising, beauty contests, etc. it seems at cross purposes. That is relative to what I recall in my innocent childhood and teen years in the 1950s and 1960s. Which brings me to . . .


I have loved Shirley Temple films since I was not much older than she was when she made them. Now I am afraid I will never be able to get that thought out of my head when I watch them.
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Old 02-21-2013, 07:10 PM   #37
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Marvelous post, Hamlet53! Thanks for sharing your ideas--they give a great deal of food for thought.

I would agree with you that Humbert has a deep seated misogynistic streak.
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Old 02-21-2013, 08:00 PM   #38
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Nabokov describes Humbert as manipulating the people around him, but at the same time Nabokov himself manipulates the reader by his clever use of words. He seeks an educated, broad minded audience. For me, in a way, the two melt together. Perhaps this is what disturbs me in this book...the use of people in- and outside the book.

Hamlet53 mentions "In a way I am reminded of, from the excellent Friz Lang film “M,” the final plea by Hans Beckert (played by Peter Lorre) before the kangaroo court of criminals that means to sentence him to death for the murder of a number of young children"

But somehow I cannot see Humbert as any kind of a victim. I saw the film "M" some years ago, and I still remember my feelings of pity for Hans Beckert. One could feel his true despair of being the man he was; a killer of children.
Where as Humbert in fact kills the child Dolores as well, but the little remorse he shows sounds as false as his justifications. For me Humberts story would have won on strength if he had appealed to the hypocrisy of some his (male) readers. But then it would have been quite another book.

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Old 02-21-2013, 09:30 PM   #39
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I think it also shows how society has changed like Hamlet53 pointed out. Prior to the start of the 20th century there were no laws against what Humbert was doing to/with Lolita. People may or may not have thought it was acceptable, but it wasn't til the 1890's or early 1900's that they actually made laws against it. Of course back then they allowed child labor in factories as well and if the kid got caught in the machine and injured/killed they just had to find someone else to do the job. Childhood as we know it now didn't exist.
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Old 02-21-2013, 10:56 PM   #40
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Marvelous post, Hamlet53! Thanks for sharing your ideas--they give a great deal of food for thought.

I would agree with you that Humbert has a deep seated misogynistic streak.
Seconded on both counts. Great post by Hamlet.
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Old 02-21-2013, 11:12 PM   #41
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Thanks for a great post, Hamlet. Lolita has definitely been discussion worthy with many interesting posts.
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Old 02-22-2013, 07:23 AM   #42
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Thanks for a great post, Hamlet. Lolita has definitely been discussion worthy with many interesting posts.
I agree.

It is also interesting to see how this book is viewed: some put it in historical context, others describe how Nabokov uses his tools/words, and again others refer to other classics or speak from their morals.
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Old 02-22-2013, 12:58 PM   #43
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I agree.

It is also interesting to see how this book is viewed: some put it in historical context, others describe how Nabokov uses his tools/words, and again others refer to other classics or speak from their morals.
I think that's one of the best uses for books myself. Using them as a discussion point to bring out all the nuances that no one person could possibly think of all by themselves.
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Old 02-23-2013, 01:15 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by BelleZora View Post
Thanks for a great post, Hamlet. Lolita has definitely been discussion worthy with many interesting posts.
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Originally Posted by desertblues View Post
I agree.

It is also interesting to see how this book is viewed: some put it in historical context, others describe how Nabokov uses his tools/words, and again others refer to other classics or speak from their morals.
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I think that's one of the best uses for books myself. Using them as a discussion point to bring out all the nuances that no one person could possibly think of all by themselves.
First thanks all for the overly effusive complements to my previous post.!

I'd say that the discussion so far is the sign that the choice was excellent for reading and discussion. Hopefully with more to come. A true exceptional literary work, and not just for perverts.

Here is another thought that occurred to me that I wonder if anyone else feels the same way. To me the scene where Humbert murders Quilty stuck out like a sore thumb relative to the rest of the book. It was just so absurdly comic. Larry murders Moe; Curly was not in the scene. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk. What do there rest of you think?

Last edited by Hamlet53; 02-23-2013 at 02:36 PM.
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Old 02-23-2013, 05:52 PM   #45
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Thanks for a great post, Hamlet. Lolita has definitely been discussion worthy with many interesting posts.
Thanks to all, as I have had a wonderful time reading through everyone's posts in this thread.

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I thought the references to Poe intriguing. Humbert’s first sexual experience is with a young girl his own age named Annabel Leigh. One immediately is reminded of the poem “Annabel Lee” by Poe. Annabel Lee of the poem is based on Poe’s own child-wife and first cousin, Virginia Eliza Clemm who was 13 at the time they were married--around the same age as Humbert and his Annabel when they were having their affair. Further, Lolita is 12 when Humbert seduces her and at the motel he signs himself in under the name of “Edgar”. Poe’s subject is a “maiden” who died young--as did Humbert’s Annabel. The love has an implied taboo quality:
Spoiler:


“But we loved with a love that was more than love -
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.”

and

“But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we --
Of many far wiser than we --“

Humbert and Annabel hide their relationship from their parents--it is a secret love affair.

The love goes beyond death but is described in a way that has a very weird quality that is quite abnormal:

“And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling --my darling --my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea --
In her tomb by the sounding sea.”

The intensely passionate lines gloss over what seems close to necrophilia. The speaker does not “lie down” by the sepulchre but beside the corpse.

The love affair of Humbert and Annabel also takes place near the sea and there are unmistakable verbal allusions; Nabokov echoes the poem when he says:

“When I was a child and she was a child, my little Annabel . . . .”

Poe writes:

"I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea:"


Now it is important to realize that the situations of Poe and Humbert have quite significant differences:

1. There is fairly good reason to believe that Poe and Virginia had a relationship which was not consummated and was more akin to that of a brother and sister--he referred to her as “Sissy” for instance.

2. There is no doubt but that Poe and Virginia had a very deep affection for each other.

3. Virginia lived until she was twenty-three and died of Tuberculosis in 1847.

4. Her death caused Poe to go into a very deep depression from which he never fully recovered and was dead himself within two years.


So why does Nabokov {who did have a great regard for Poe’s work} make the allusions?

It could be that, perhaps, he is underlining the dark, unnatural nature of Humbert’s obsession with nymphettes in general and Lolita in particular through the use of this inter-textuality--much as Joyce does with Homer {though with a different purpose} in Ulysses.

Anyone have any ideas on the subject?
Thanks for reminding me about the various connections made about the book.

I first read Lolita when I found it hidden in the china cabinet when I was in High School. I couldn't understand why it was hidden and just thought yuck that she was with an old man. Not a lot left an impression on me at the time other than it was hidden.

I reread Lolita when I was in college then saw a movie about it later; it was a totally different experience to that of my younger age. This was the age that I first noted there was something "wrong" and even disgusting about the relationship between them beyond the beautiful writing. We did discuss the various references including Poe.

I didn't feel inclined to reread it for this discussion, but did have some curiosity about the writer and time it was written. So I did a quick wiki look to remember some of the other little references. I continue to understand pieces and parts of references to and in other works and continue to make and note others as time goes on.

Spoiler:
"Nabokov originally intended Lolita to be called The Kingdom by the Sea,[47] drawing on the rhyme with Annabel Lee that was used in the first verse of Poe's work. A variant of this line is reprised in the opening of chapter one, which reads ...had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea."

Then the whole thing about the strange person from Porlock in other works. (This was the most interesting to me, as it is used as a just a line or a name in other works or conversations and I didn't ever catch that it was connected to another person.) Thanks Bilbo1967 for reminding me about this.
"The Person from Porlock was an unwelcome visitor to Samuel Taylor Coleridge during his composition of the poem Kubla Khan." - "In Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, a character checks into a motel under the pseudonym A. Person, Porlock, England." and also a reference to something said by Sherlock in The Valley of Fear - "Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson receive a letter from an informant known by the pseudonym Fred Porlock." And from Person from Porlock - "In Arthur Conan Doyle's novel The Valley of Fear, Sherlock Holmes is interrupted in his labours by a letter from the pseudonymous Fred Porlock, an informant within Moriarty's organization. Porlock's identity is never revealed."

Anyway, I had fun following links and references by others to see other connects and sometimes even a claim of plagiarism under the Heinz von Lichberg's "Lolita" section.

Thanks again to all and this was a very interesting discussion.
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