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Dear reader, listening to this audiobook version of Lolita was a fascinating experience: beautiful and poisonous, loving and loathing, sad and funny, sublime and debased, pure and rotten, refined and vulgar, European and American. The premise, a middle-aged man who is a connoisseur of "nymphets" (pre-pubescent girls with a seemingly "demoniac" and "soul-shattering charm") becomes the step-father of one, may shock or repulse. But Nabokov is unsettlingly effective at making us sympathize with his first-person narrator, Humbert Humbert. The novel is also interesting for being comprised of skewed pieces of various genres: buddy-road-adventure, romance, erotic, metafiction, tragedy, and European critique of America.
There is some French in the novel, but usually the context implies what Humbert is saying.
Jeremy Irons expresses his thorough understanding of Nabokov's novel throughout his reading of it. From the opening foreword by the outrageously pedantic American Dr. John Ray, Jr., followed immediately by the creepy sensual beauty of the opening lines of Humbert's story ("Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta" etc.), Irons' voice helps to seduce the reader more and more into Humbert's head and heart and world than the text does alone. He really becomes Humbert in his various moods, including poetic ecstasy, peevish anger, guilty despair, surreal delirium, and philosophic acceptance. It was a pleasure to hear him speaking in Lolita's vulgar American pre-teen voice one moment and in Humbert's world-weary European aesthete's the next. He also does a fine job with the other supporting characters, like Clare Quilty the amoral and successful playwright who speaks a debauched and effeminate American English that simulates by turns movie gangsters, British upper crusts, or French intellectuals.
Well worth listening to.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Jeremy Irons gives a perfect performance as Humbert Humbert (the narrator & fictional author of the story). His tone creates exactly the right amount of compulsion to listen while remaining a repellent character. If you know you want to read Lolita then this is the version you want.
As for the story, the way Nabokov brings the reader in as co-conspirator is both attractive & repellent. If we do not read Humbert's book, his crimes are not witnessed - possibly never committed. As reader we are complicit in every aspect of his crimes.
It's an incredible tale & we are invited right into Humbert's mind, where we are manipulated much the same way he manipulates everyone else around him.
The prose is remarkable. It is possible that Humbert is the most detested fictional character in the world while his story of "Lolita" is one of the finest stories ever written.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
This book is fantastic. It is written as the confessions of one Humbert Humbert (not his real name) with regards to his relationship with his young step-daughter after the mothers untimely death. This disturbing subject matter is beautifully crafted into a story that is heart-breaking for it's insight into the delusional self-justification of Humbert and the consequence of his actions, whilst at the same time having moments of genuine humour. This dark humour is kept suitably distant from the obscenity of his conduct such that one does not feel guilty for finding mirth amongst such a troubling subject. There is nothing gratuitous in this book and it is a testament to the authors great skill that he can capture so many varied emotions between its covers.
Jeremy Irons' gravelly, plumby, british accent does a fantastic job of Humbert Humberts narrative and in my mind, has set up a dubious association with the great actor for many years to come!
16 of 16 people found this review helpful
Nabokov is a truly great writer (a Nobel prize winner I think); only a great writer could take such a potentially tawdry subject - a middle aged man's obsession with and sexual exploitation of a 12-year old girl - and turn it into a compelling story of the complexity of human relationships without glossing over the darkness, the emptiness and the pain. And the combination of Nabokov's brilliantly fluent and poetical prose and Jeremy Irons' superb narration is such an intoxicating mix - an outstanding audiobook by any yardstick. Superb stuff indeed. I've listened to around 500 audiobooks over the last 15 years and this must be one of the best. Strongly recommended. A genuine 5-star listen.
21 of 22 people found this review helpful
Jeremy Irons is a great narrator and he did this book very well. But it's a difficult book to listen to because the protagonist frequently slips into both French and Latin. There's also so much wordplay that is easy to miss in the audiobook version.
Obviously there's also the whole pedophilia thing, but if you're considering picking up Lolita I'm going to assume you're already aware of that...
In any case, while Irons' performance was outstanding, I still don't recommend the audiobook because of the difficulties mentioned above.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
Jeremy Irons was the perfect narrator for this novel. Truly superb.
Although the content was quite taboo, it almost forces the reader to question their definition of love and who you can love.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful