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Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov. 
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Post Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov.
I'll start a thread about this novel here, in case anybody is interested .

Here are links to an interview of Nabokov:

Lolita was first published (in Paris) in 1955.

fr.youtube.com/watch?v=Ldpj_5JNFoA

During this interview Nabokov says: "I have invented my America and it's just as fantastic as any inventor's America."
I'm not concerned in holding her up to public abuse, to ridicule.
it was fun to breed her in my own laboratory".

Then the critic taking part in the interview says that his America is "attractive", and Nabokov uses the word "lovely".

He says Lolita is not a satire and has no message.

fr.youtube.com/watch?v=0-wcB4RPasE&feature=related

"This is a book about love, not about sex".


Any comments about these quotations?


Here is the wikipedia entry to Vladimir Nabokov:


en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Nabokov


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Last edited by Ophelia on Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:15 am, edited 2 times in total.



Tue Sep 16, 2008 9:24 pm
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Thank you so much for starting this thread, Ophelia. I was so excited because I thought we would be reading this book for October but was denied. So I am going to read it on my own.

As for the quotes, I can only go by the movie because my book hasn't come in yet. I would have to disagree, but yet at the same time agree. I believe that the whole thing is about control. The mother tries to control Lolita by obtaining a new husband. The step-father (his name escapes me at the moment) tries to control how his new daughter looks at him. However, Lolita reverses this control through her sexual energy. In the end, Lolita triumphs because she then controls not only her step-father, but her mother and her new husband. But does Lolita really have the control or is she imagining it by surrendering it to others to dictate what her actions will be?



Wed Sep 17, 2008 11:05 am
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Hello Raving, I'm glad you're interested in Lolita.

Would anybody else like to join us?

I'm in the same situation as you are-- I am going to order my copy today, and what I have in mind is the film, but not the same version as the one you've seen.
So, here we are:

The first version is a black and white film made by Stanley Kubrick in 1962.
(There's a page at wikipedia but I can't give a link here.)
The newer version is a film by Adrian Lyne made in 1997.

www.imdb.com/title/tt0119558/

You can watch extracts from both films on youtube.
Actually, perhaps there are other versions that I haven't heard of?


I agree with you that control will be something to watch for as we read the book. Who controls whom, who thinks they have control over someone else-- one person who doesn't seem to exercise much control is Humbert Humbert.


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Wed Sep 17, 2008 12:33 pm
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This site enables you to read the first pages from the book.
It also gives information and an article by Martin Amis about Lolita.

www.randomhouse.com/features/nabokov/lo_excerpt.html


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Wed Sep 17, 2008 2:15 pm
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Thanks for the links Ophelia. Hopefully my copy is at my house right now.



Wed Sep 17, 2008 5:20 pm
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I love Lolita and would definitely read it a third time for discussion purposes.

I've always thought that Nabokov made that comment to stir up people's imaginations as they read, so that they did not merely go in with the assumption that there is nothing to like about Humbert Humbert. I don't want to ruin anything for you until you've started, but I would definitely like to participate!

~Rahel



Thu Sep 18, 2008 6:51 am
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Hello Rahel, welcome to Booktalk and the discussion of Lolita! :smile:
It will be great to discuss the book with someone who has already read it twice...

Would you like to tell us a little about yourself by writing an introduction in the Introduction threads?


My copy of Lolita should arrive in about two days' time , but we can start the discussion of the first chapter right away if you and Raving are ready to start. I've read the pages that can be read for free at one of the references I've given, and there a lot to say about those opening pages.

Rahel wrote:
Quote:
I've always thought that Nabokov made that comment to stir up people's imaginations as they read, so that they did not merely go in with the assumption that there is nothing to like about Humbert Humbert.

Can you specify which quote you're referring to?


I suggest we keep in mind the quotations I gave in the first posts and return to them when the need arises.
I'll return to this thread, probably tonight, and post about chapter 1.

Would anyone else like to join the club?


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Thu Sep 18, 2008 9:59 am
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I just read the excerpts (still don't have my copy just yet). Having the knowledge of the end in mind, it seems that Mr. Humbert is trying to explain away his infatuation with Lolita. It seems he is trying to say it isn't his fault because he had a devasting relationship with Annabel that was not ended properly. Almost like he is trying to justify his sexual urge to Lolita.
The subject of control enters my mind. Humbert seems like he is trying to say that if he could have had Annabel then he could have controlled himself around Lolita. Annabel's death and Lolita's prescence ripped that control away from him.

I can't wait to get my copy.



Thu Sep 18, 2008 11:24 am
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Chapter 1. First paragraph.

First sentence: "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins".

Is this a famous sentence among people who know the book? I think I've heard it before, perhaps because it is a convenient sentence to use to advertize the book or the films.
The sexual theme is introduced, though not in a brutal way. It must be a phrasing that appeals to the narrator, Humbert. To me, "fire of my loins" sounds strange, perhaps quaint, bordering on the ridiculous.

Line 5: the narrator tries to draw us into his mind.
"Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did."
At this stage we don't know that Lolita is under-age.
Normally, if we learn that a middle-age mind had a relationship with a twelve-year-old, we don't think of asking if she had a precursor. Humbert makes it sound as if he knows the reader (or the jury) is going to want an answer to that question. (mental note: manipulation by the narrator ahead?)

End of the paragraph: we learn that he is a murder (Who...) and that this piece of writing is addressed to the "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury."

An excellent opening paragraph I think.


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Thu Sep 18, 2008 1:33 pm
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The Annabell Leigh/Lee story.

When I first read it I wondered why Nabokov had found this to be necessary.
I found the Annabel story unconvincing. It pulls into many directions that I can't reconcile.
Did I read that Annabel was 12? I can't find an age in the textright now.
I can't reconcile that passion with the idea of twelve-year-olds as I see them. But then, the narrator warns that this was in 1919, " a perfection that must remain incomprehensible to the matter-of-fact, crude, standard-brained youngsters of today."
OK, so this gives me an idea why I'm not getting it.
By the way, how old was Shakespeare's juliet supposed to be? 14? 12?

The Annabel story develops the theme of physical passion, with some absurdities like "I gave her to hold in her awkward fist the sceptre of my passion."
I'll read and ask myself if nabokov writes sentences like this with the purpose of sounding strange or laughable. Any ideas?

Then, there are other things: I found the repetition of "In a kingdom by the sea" rather poetic (but also incongruous compared with the references to physical passion, eg "with aching veins".).
There is an interesting paragraph about how they had the same dreams and affinities. "The same June of the same year (1919) a stray canary had strayed into her house and mine, in two widely separated countries".
I like this.

Back to the question: WHY the Annabel Leigh story?
The next line is interesting: "Oh, Lolita, had you loved me thus!"
We know now that Lolita and the narrator are not going to be soul-mates, that their relationship is not going to have the same quality. The Annabel story as a foil?


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Thu Sep 18, 2008 2:56 pm
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The Annabel story.

Nabokov's aim: did he try to explain Humbert's behaviour, thought of some basic psychology and came up with this story about his childhood?
It sounds unconvincing to me. Did he think he should give his readers or the censors an explanation?
I imagine that not much was known about pedophiles in the 1950's from a medical point of view, and even now psychiatry may be rather sketchy on this point.

Now on the other hand, the story is very useful to the narrator.

Raving wrote:
Quote:
it seems that Mr. Humbert is trying to explain away his infatuation with Lolita. It seems he is trying to say it isn't his fault because he had a devasting relationship with Annabel that was not ended properly. Almost like he is trying to justify his sexual urge to Lolita.


Yes, I agree! He keeps adding justifications to try and convince us -- we can see a rather pathetic, manipulative character here. There is a lot of self-pity and self-centredness.

Quote:
The subject of control enters my mind. Humbert seems like he is trying to say that if he could have had Annabel then he could have controlled himself around Lolita. Annabel's death and Lolita's presence ripped that control away from him.


Interesting. First I had thought of who was trying to control whom, but this adds the issue of controlling oneself-- or failing to.


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Thu Sep 18, 2008 3:02 pm
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Annabel, continued... reference to Poe's peom.

Lolita is supposed to be full of literary references, and... I didn't order the annotated version of Lolita! How about you?
The reference to Poe's Annabel changes things. Nabokov would have expected his readers to know the poem, and the contrast is striking.
Where Humbert is often clumsy and pathetic, Poe is simple and beautiful.
Humbert was already giving me an overload of information, and Poe adds one more layer.
What do you think?


Annabel Lee

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of ANNABEL LEE;--
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
She was a child and I was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea,
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 this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud by night
Chilling my Annabel Lee;
So that her high-born kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,
Went envying her and me:--
Yes! that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of a cloud, chilling
And killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we--
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in Heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee:--

For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling, my darling, my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea--
In her tomb by the side of the sea.

-- Edgar Allan Poe


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Thu Sep 18, 2008 3:16 pm
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I found that the Poe Annabel interesting because of its similarity to Lolita. It seems to bring everything into focus where Humbert is just giving you a rough outline.

I am not to sure how old they were supposed to be in their trist. I was guess 14 because of his description on how clumsy and unexperienced they were. I believe that Shakespeare's Juliet was in fact 14.

The use of the language that Nabokov uses is very descriptive (trying to find the right word but lacking it at the moment). If I was sitting on the jury I would think to myself that this gentleman is trying to sound intelligent but going overboard almost to the point of being obsurd. I also agree that Humbert seems to be explaining too much. To quote Shakespeare "I think you protest too much" (not exact quote but you know what I mean).

I believe that I bought the annotated one. I will have to wait and see what comes in though.



Thu Sep 18, 2008 4:33 pm
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Sorry not to be more specific. About the quote, I was referring to Nabokov saying that this was a story about love, not sex. I think he said that because it is provocative; it makes us re-examine a character whom we would like to write off as a pedophile. Humbert is never quite what we expect, especially in the first few chapters; he is charming, charismatic, humorous. We find ourselves rooting for him at times and then remembering ourselves.

That is the point of the quote, and of the Annabel story. I think the Annabel story does two things. 1) It's an homage to the gothic side of this novel, since Humbert's voice is very much a Poe-inspired limited narrator who llets us look too closely into his own psyche. 2) It gives us a context with which to understand and empathize with Humbert. He loses this childhood love and then searches for its recurrence for the rest of his life. This is a story about love. Does Humbert love Lolita? I don't think so. Does he love Annabel through Lolita? Possibly.

~Rahel



Thu Sep 18, 2008 10:16 pm
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Rahel wrote:

Quote:
Humbert is never quite what we expect, especially in the first few chapters; he is charming, charismatic, humorous. We find ourselves rooting for him at times and then remembering ourselves.


Exactly! I found myself at times rooting for him as an adult as opposed to a dreadful teenager, and as a European opposed to an American! :smile:

Quote:
It's an homage to the gothic side of this novel, since Humbert's voice is very much a Poe-inspired limited narrator


Lovely, this is one more thing to look forward to then.

Raving wrote:
Quote:
If I was sitting on the jury I would think to myself that this gentleman is trying to sound intelligent but going overboard almost to the point of being absurd.


Yes, that would explain the strange use of language.

Quote:
I also agree that Humbert seems to be explaining too much. To quote Shakespeare

"Methinks the lady doth protest too much" (Hamlet).

I'm looking forward to the continuation of this discussion... :smile:


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Thu Sep 18, 2008 11:09 pm
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