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Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov in which the narrator, Humbert Humbert, is sexually obsessed with young girls. Humbert narrates to us his childhood, his lost, young, first love, and his stunted ability to have mature relationships. Despite his age, (in his thirties), and various relationships; he testifies to us that his emotional senses, and amorous attractions remain, still, in a state of perpetual, idealized, adolescence.

Warning: Wikipedia contains spoilers

A scholar, Humbert Leaving Europe for America, he eventually moves into a rented room in the home of Charlotte Haze, after meeting her, and spying her twelve-year-old daughter (Dolores Haze, affectionately shortened to "Lo", or Lolita), sunbathing in the garden. Charlotte Haze, a lonely widow, becomes Humbert's unwitting pawn in his silent quest to be near her young daughter, soon becomes Humbert's wife. Upon a search of Humbert's room, she finds his diary, and Humbert's written confessions of indifference to his new wife, and impassioned lust for her daughter. She runs away in disgust, and in fleeing the home, is hit and killed by a passing car.

Humbert begins traveling around America with Lolita, with whom he is now having a sexual relationship, going from motel to motel. This relationship ends when a rival adult suitor, Claire Quilty, convinces Lolita to leave Humbert and run away with him.

At the end of the novel, when Humbert Humbert briefly reunites with Lolita, it is only to give her the money she has requested so that she and her new husband, Richard Schiller, can make a fresh start in Alaska. Humbert realizes that he still wants her, not because she was one of the class of young girls he refers to as nymphets, but because he has truly fallen in love with her.

The novel is a tragi-comedy narrated by Humbert, who can be quite funny in his observations of American life. His humor is an effective counterpoint to the truly moving nature of the story itself. The tale is told in a more flamboyant style than was usually found in American literature, filled with word play, foreign phrases, anagrams, and invented words such as nymphet, which has since gone on to a life of its own in the dictionaries. Throughout the novel, Nabokov uses a number of literary devices which add to the complexity of the story.

Because of the subject matter, Nabokov had difficulty finding a publisher, eventually resorting to Olympia Press[?], a publisher of "erotica" in Paris, which published Lolita in 1955. A favorable notice by English author Graham Greene led to widespread critical admiration for the book, and its eventual American publication, in 1958, by G.P. Putnam's Sons. Today, it is considered by many one of the finest novels written in the 20th century.

It has been filmed twice, by Stanley Kubrick (starring James Mason, Shelley Winters, Peter Sellers and Sue Lyon[?]), and by Adrian Lyne[?] (starring Jeremy Irons and Melanie Griffith[?]).

The term lolita has, through the association with the movie, become associated with sexually precocious girls and pedophilia in general.

External links and references

  • The best guide to the complexities of Lolita is The Annotated Lolita, by Alfred Appel, Jr., first published by McGraw-Hill in 1970, with a revised edition published by Vintage Books in 1991. ISBN 0679727299
  • Original Lolita: ISBN 0679723161

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