Vladimir Nabokov’s novel is the perfect example of an object – in this case, a character – taking on a life of its own. Also, thanks to Stanley Kubrick‘s movie, Lolita is now an antonomasia: the twelve-year-old girl whom Humbert Humbert loves has become all the young girls who mix innocence and seduction (there’s even the definition, in the dictionary). The story is well-known: a professor, Humbert Humbert, falls in love with the daughter of his landlord, a woman he’ll marry and who will soon die by accident. This event will allow H.H. to start a relationship with his stepdaughter, Dolores, Dolly, Lo, Lolita.
Delicacy and violence
Due to the content of the book and Nabokov’s refusal to censor anything, publishers rejected the novel over and over again, until 1955, when it came out in Paris for Olympia Press, an important publishing house of erotic literature. Beyond the prudery and the scandal that still hover around the book, Lolita definitely deserves a reading. Nabokov carefully chooses his words, delivering pages in which sensuality and abruptness, delicacy, and violence coexist.
A filmic writing
The structure of the book – its layered writing, the repetition of motifs, the endless cross-references – reveals an attentive work ethic. And last but not least there’s the visual and filmic quality of Nabokov’s writing. The gesture of Lolita, the first time she enters the scene – when she raises her dark sunglasses – even before Kubrick immortalized it, has thus become the gesture of the diva, replicated by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Brigitte Bardot, and even Marcello Mastroianni in 8½.