“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo – Lee – Ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”
Lolita. My Mt. Everest. My Thanksgiving turkey. My Hogwarts battle.
Let me begin with the fact that the premise of this book is what kept me coming back to it. The story is narrated by Humbert Humbert who is a scholar and a romantic at heart. He falls truly, madly and crazily in love with his landlady’s 12 – years – old daughter, Dolly Haze. Yes, she really is 12 – years – old. Lolita is his nickname for her. In a twisted attempt to be closer to her, he reluctantly agrees to marry his landlady. But, Lolita, it seems, cannot be contained and this is the tragic story that follows. And as the title of this post suggests, it took me 3 tries to finish it.
The first time I tried reading it, I was working for an NGO that works towards child protection. It was impossible for me to stomach it and I gave up after reading a few chapters. The way Lolita has been described and Humbert’s close watchfulness towards her, made my skin crawl. It made me wonder if the girls I work with are in danger without them even knowing it! It really was no surprise then that I abandoned the book at the time.
However, the story kept pulling me back and I was always left wondering what happened with Lolita. The next time I attempted reading it was when I was headed for a holiday with my husband to Thailand. Now, many may wonder why I would pick this book for a holiday, but my reader friends will agree when I say, “the book called to me”. And so, I carried it all the way to Thailand.
Once I finished the book that I had begun at the airport (I always carry more than one book on a holiday), I picked up Lolita. I decided to start from the beginning as much time had lapsed. This time, I wasn’t working for an NGO and believed that maybe, this was the time I would be able to cross over and finish it. Alas, I was mistaken. I couldn’t even get past the parts I had already read! As much as the book had called to me, it wasn’t really being easy on me. So, I decided to give it up. After all, who wants to be reading a tough book on a holiday?!
Having abandoned Lolita for the 2nd time, I was now officially feeling extremely guilty. The guilt was about many things; not finishing the book, not possibly understanding Lolita, abandoning a story multiple times, not supposedly being smart enough to ‘get’ a classic, etc. But by my birthday, I had been gifted a Kindle and I came to realize that it was easier to read difficult books on it because it somehow magically goes faster than anticipated. So I decided to buy the kindle version of Lolita and give it another shot.
This marked the 3rd attempt. Let me pause and thank a few people here (because it does feel like I won an Oscar). The heavens for just existing; the scientists that developed the Kindle; my mother for working in her company for over 15 years and getting gifted the Kindle for her work, without her dedication, I would not have been the proud owner of the Kindle Voyage; Amazon for pricing the Kindle versions of books at a lower price so that I can purchase them; and my husband for just being awesome about my book buying addiction.
So began my 3rd attempt on the kindle this time. I decided not to start from the beginning as the beginning was etched in my memory already. I began at a point where I thought I had left off the last time. I am happy to say that the kindle version was definitely much easier to read and I can now proudly say I was able to finish the book this time!
NOW, finally, something about the book. The entire storyline of this book was amazing (once you get past the creepiness of it and believe me, it takes a lot of effort to look past it). I loved the unique concept, the flow and the general narrative. I quite pitied Humbert too. Vladimir Nobokov made me worry and empathize with Lolita. Her ‘wild’ nature was something that we come across daily, either we experience it or observe it. The book makes you realize (if you don’t already) that there is a very subtle line between being safe and unsafe, especially for girls and women. However, I am not sure it needed the difficult language. I felt it took away something from the story. I’m not even sure I understood most of those difficult passages! I had to take it in based on context. On most occasions, parts that were supposed to sound sarcastic just felt monotonous for me. However, I would most definitely recommend this book having made past the creepiness and the difficult language.
Finally, I’d like to say, I came, I saw, I conquered!