Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of my tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. Savagely funny and hauntingly sad, Lolita is Nabokov's most famous and controversial novel. It is the story of tortured college professor Humbert Humbert and his dangerous obsession with honey-skinned schoolgirl Dolores Haze.Determined to possess his "Lolita", Humbert embarks on a disastrous journey across an American landscape littered with fast-food diners, gas stations and lonely motels. Brilliantly evocative and bitingly satirical in its depiction of postwar America, Lolita still has the power to shock and beguile.
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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.
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.