NABOKV-L post 0017041, Fri, 12 Sep 2008 10:38:32 -0300

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Re: THOUGHTS re: Excerpts from "Lolita"
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Charles Nicol: I've been reading this Lolita discussion and missing a central concern: the actual father-daughter relationship. If we take out the love affair/child abuse element (and I know that this means sidestepping almost the whole novel), we find a man who spends his time educating his step-daughter in everything [...]Humbert is precisely the kind of strict parent the principal at Lolita's school chides him about. This is one of the major comic elements in the novel [...] Perhaps the only person he can admit this aspect to is his alter ego, Quilty, to whom he says before shooting him, "she was my child."

J.A.:[ Re: ...your assumption that true love, necessarily, must also be "selfless love"... distant from childhood nostalgias and fairy-tale dreams.] I think this mixes up two things "selfless love" and "childhood nostalgias".
JA: [ Re: HH's woe-is-me often drives me to tears ] Seriously, you cry over that? ... it sounds antiquated and too deliberate, too stylized... Humbert's terrible poem he writes after Lolita's disappearance strikes the inner ear, or my inner ear anyway, as arising from something resembling real despair... Too often Humbert throws up poetic eloquence to blur his motivations, which change throughout the book... how can he love her? He neither knows, understands or respects her--there's a long line of these guys in N.'s fiction. Does Sebastian really love that Russian lady in RLSK? ...Does the narrator of Spring in Fialta really love Nina?...In Ada, Nabokov tries to dramatize something like real love, but it's still mixed with that weird solipsism thing...
JA: [Re: Did HH, while censoring Lolita's unpoetic expletives, act like Satan rebuking sin or...] This is at the heart of where we disagree. Lolita's expletives are the real poetry in the book, what Humbert tries to suppress, but which comes out anyway and which, in a weird way, accidentally makes his book so great, which amazingly Nabokov seems to have planned. It's the miracle of his book, how an obsession reflects in distorted form the heroic attempts of a girl...Lolita's brash childishness brings charm and air and life to Humbert's emotionally crippled purple curliques....Lolita says if she has to look at another cow she's going to throw up; when Lolita says, "the word is incest" to Humbert ...; when Lolita steadfastly refuses to be moved by natural wonders during their trip and reads a paper instead; or when Lolita in her last appearance says, "the past is the past"...What moves me are not Humbert grotesque howls, but when Lolita says, "you mean you're giving us four thousand bucks?"

JM: Good points. Fundamental issues.
Chaz pointed out one of the "major comic elements of the novel", HH's competence as a father figure set in contrast to the child-abuse element together with modern paedagogical blindnesses.
JA, in a similar spirit, collected samples of "Lolita's brash childishness...the real poetry of the book". These comments are, how can I state it, so very to the point. There's no need to add anything else.

Like in the anedocte of the scorpion that bites the frog that's carrying him across the lake: "we're both going to die, but I cannot help it that I remain a scorpion, always a scorpion...", I must argue back, though! Human love cannot be selfless love: not even in the bible where one must love one's neighbor as one loves oneselves, aso.... An exemplary father, while still loving and caring for "his child", is motivated by the possessive "mine" (that evolutionary theory "selfish gene" stuff, at least). Nabokov's richness also lies in the way he presents love's thousands of facets (JA:"HH's...motivations change througout the book") and in HH we find them in their full complexity of expression: from the most abject jealously sexual domination to the loftiest soulfull repentance. Just like it happens in "real life".

HH was no ordinary pervert ( like the Austrian Fritzls and such) and this is why his "purple curliques" touch me as being often quite genuine.
I could not find the lines I want to quote here: there's that moment when HH embraces Lolita like a normal father, feels tenderness and grieves for her and, almost as a consequence of that mood, he feels sexually excited and is compelled to make her endure the recurrence of his rapes. Self-loathing and ecstasy mingle: he cannot help himself, neither can he protect Lolita from that.




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