Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0016217, Fri, 18 Apr 2008 16:30:18 -0400

Re: QUERY: Lolita's subjectivity and America
Matt Roth here:

Suellen said: It is not just Humbert but rather Nabokov who gives us a hidden but quite vivid portrait of Dolores Haze. With every successive reading of the book, increasingly more of her character is revealed and again not just in the narrative but in interweavings of language and theme, so that now I feel she stands on her own and I DO know who the actual (fictional) Dolores Haze is or at least as well as I know who the fictional HH is. I don’t think we glimpse her for a moment; she seems ever present to me. Nabokov was able to accomplish all this without providing direct access to her inner life but pointing to it in many subtle ways. Is the pang of sorrow that you speak of perhaps because we know so much about her rather than that we know so little?

Jansy said: In my opinion the reader doesn't need to "know or to guess who the actual (fictional) Dolores Haze might be" because her "absence" is, by itself, an extremely effective literary instrument, a resource that lies way beyond any kind of sociological, moralistic or psychological analysis.

MR: For me, Jansy's notion of absence-as-presence seems most akin to my experience of the book. But I have only read it cover-to-cover twice, and it may be that Suellen's more thorough immersion in the book has revealed to her an actual presence that I have not yet discerned. (Insert here VN's comments about the botanist specializing in lilies.) When I mentioned accessing Lo's subjectivity, I was asking myself, can I think as Dolores thinks? Can I know what she was thinking as these events happened? For me, the answer is only 'yes' if I am speaking very generally--I was once a child, so I can understand the tragedy of a broken childhood. I do not, however, feel like I can get inside Dolores's mind to anywhere near the extent that I can enter HH's.

SES, thank you for confirming with data what I suppose many have thought: that "Lolita" is Humbert's special name for Dolores. As I discussed the novel in class last week, I tried to always say Dolores instead of Lolita, and it made me feel better.


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