Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025193, Fri, 14 Mar 2014 10:47:39 -0300

{SIGHTING] Lolita and taboos

<http://www.spectator.co.uk/> The Spectator

Is any kind of sex still taboo in literature?

Yes. But there are novelists working on thatÂ…

<http://www.spectator.co.uk/author/nigel-farndale/> Nigel Farndale 8 March

The first gay marriage will be conducted this Easter, and those who still
object to the idea find themselves in a minority. The majority, according to
polls, canÂ’t see what all the fuss is about.How far we have travelled in a
relatively short period of time. Until 1967, the punishment for
homosexuality was a year in prison, or chemical castration, which was the
option taken by Alan Turing, the Bletchley Park codebreaker. At least he has
now been posthumously pardoned, so thatÂ’s OK. Extreme though attitudes to
homosexuality have been in the past, I donÂ’t think that, as a subject, it
ever had the status of a taboo, not properly. Consider the way that, long
before the new spirit of tolerance emerged, novelists were able to write
about it without censure. Explorations ranged from the subtle, such as
Evelyn WaughÂ’s Brideshead Revisited and Thomas MannÂ’s Death in Venice, to
the overt, such as E.M. ForsterÂ’s Maurice and James BaldwinÂ’s GiovanniÂ’s
Room. And such has been its prevalence in more recent years — thanks to the
likes of Edmund White, Alan Hollinghurst and Colm Tóibín — that it can now
be considered a popular genre.[ ] Social attitudes do ebb and flow, of
course. Could Lolita (1955) be published for the first time today? I doubt
it. The publishers would be surrounded by torch-carrying mobs calling for
Nabokov and other ‘paediatricians’ to be lynched. But I can’t see novels
dealing with consensual ‘vanilla’ sex, be it heterosexual or homosexual,
ever having the power to shock again.Certain other sexual acts remain taboo
no matter what else is going on in society. Take bestiality, necrophilia
and, perhaps the biggest no-no of them all, incest. In 1967, there was a
limit to the then new concept of tolerance about sex between consenting
adults. Even though the Wolfenden Report took its inspiration from John
Stuart Mill’s On Liberty — and his contention that the law ought not concern
itself with ‘private immorality’ — it was agreed that incest should remain a
criminal offence. ‘The general feeling of history and society on that matter
is that it ought not to be tolerated,Â’ Sir John Wolfenden declared.

Jansy Mello: “Lolita” is the permanent association of Nabokov to “forbidden
themes”. Here there’s no mention to incest in his novels…

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