Thursday, June 24, 2010

Better Understanding Lolita

 I sent this ( Reading Lolita and Derek) post to feminist mormon housewives a few weeks ago and they actually posted it! 

If my post doesn't say it strongly enough, I highly recommend the book Reading Lolita in Tehran.  It was a poignant, well-written memoir.  It inspired me to read Henry James (Washington Square).   There were great observations about women, society and how women relate to men in patriarchal societies. 

And most of all, I now finally (finally!) have a better understanding and appreciation for Nabakov's Lolita

I first read Lolita in college.  To say I hated it with a passion would not have been strong enough.  I intensely disliked it.  I read it on my own, not in a course. I think if I had read it as a part of an English lit course, maybe it would have made more sense to me at the time .

As it was, Nafisi's description of  the novel made so much more sense.  It was her English teacher/ professor's perspective that I didn't have on my own.  I'll admit it, I couldn't see past the evil of Humbert Humbert; the horror of the subject matter.  Yet after reading Nafisi's account, I understand that a reader isn't always supposed to appreciate or identify with the main character. This is the comment I wrote about it (after reading Nafisi's work):
And the novel [Lolita] describes a triumph of the human spirit - that despite everything that Lolita goes through (and she goes through a lot) - we never really see her. Humbert (her abuser) tries to pin her down, tries to capture her but he’s not able to. She has her own way of dealing with her life. She escapes and he is left to flounder. And despite Nabokov’s beautiful words and flowery phrases, we can see evil for how it is. Humbert’s actions speak far louder than his words.
I think this is what some friends were trying to tell me back in college, but I was young.  I  wasn't at a point where I could get it.

I'm not suggesting everyone should go out and read Lolita (by any means).  I strongly support people's right to read (or not read) what they choose - and to limit their own personal contact with various subject matter (including rape, abuse, incest, etc.) Although I admit, I will probably re-read it  after finishing Reading Lolita in Tehran.  

As an aside to this post, I have to be amazed at the art of Lolita. It is still an incredibly controversial novel.  Even now, bring it up in polite conversation (if you dare) and almost everyone has a strong opinion about it.  That's saying quite a lot, given the time that has passed and our society in general. 

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