In a message dated 21/08/2008 15:46:27 GMT Standard Time, vanveen13@SBCGLOBAL.NET writes:
I take H.H.'s sentence about how you can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style in a couple ways. There's what the character means, what the author means, and what the gambit of a fancy prose style for a lurid subject is actually about. H.H. I assume means that because he's a murderer he's not going to speak the plain truth, that he's going to use words to get around sordidness and elide ethical lapses; N is warning the reader through the narrator to closely read what this character tries to get away with; a great many of the book's first readers forgot this as the book progressed and fell for the narrator's fanciness as sensitivity. Note Dorthy Parker's review, who thought H.H. was a good complicated man and Lolita a hard nosed brat with a tender spot for money! But I suspect the true reason for all this fanciness was that Nabokov, an old fashioned gentleman in terms of literature, was uncomfortable with outright obscenity and had to come up with a way to mitigate the lewd material, similiar to Anthony Burgess use of the nadsat slang in A Clockwork Orange (follow this link and you can read my recently published essay on the film, which has a few mentions of N.:, so he could allow himself to penetrate as deeply into the subject as he did. What other reasons can there be for H.H.'s often untranslated French pornographic poetry, or having Humbert censor Lolita in their last scene together when she tells him she refused to "blow" Clare Quilty's "beastly boys"? Ordinarily this sort of thing would not work, would seem coy and arch in English, but succeeds brilliantly because Nabokov has made it into a wonderfully ironic psychological touch. H.H. can casually destroy a little girl's life, turn her into his cross-country sex slave and reduce the poor thing to the status a whore, making her perform hand jobs on him while he watches school girls debark from a bus, but he's too prissy to be able to deal with the girl's slangy sexual vulgarisms, and refuses to reprint verbatim Lolita's four letter language when the two of them are nearly caught in the act on a mountainside! Nabokov turned what I think was an aesthetic limitation into an amazing advantage, a way to dramatize the character's slimy self-serving dishonesty, which makes H.H. rather like Eichman if you think about it.
This is all absolutely correct, and indeed obvious, but almost never stated so well, if at all.
Anthony Stadlen
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