Title: The Annotated Lolita
Author: Vladimir Nabokov (edited by Alfred Appel Jr.)
Publication Year: 1991
Source: Purchased from Chapters.ca
This was my book club read for March. I meant to start reading it while I was away on vacation, but all I managed to get through was the (rather lengthy) introduction. It took forever! There’s so much information in there, and lots of it isn’t really specifically relevant to Lolita. This is definitely an edition of the book where you should avoid the introduction unless you’ve already read it (the novel) at least once – otherwise it tells you too much and goes into far too much detail for you to enjoy it properly.
Once I got past the introduction and into the actual text of Lolita, this was a brilliant read. The narrator, Humbert Humbert, is “writing” the story down in retrospect from prison after the events of the novel have already taken place. He is basically telling the story of how he came to be there, particularly the events involving a young girl named Dolores, aka the infamous Lolita. Nabokov has written the text in a rather conversational style, as though we are really following along inside the mind of Humbert. He’s actually rather funny at times … for a pedophile.
I found it impossible to like any of the characters in this book. Right from the outset, Humbert sets himself up as someone who knows he has a problem, and tries to keep himself from going too far, but then eventually loses control. Lolita, on the other hand, isn’t actually all that likeable, either, which made me feel quite conflicted. I wanted to like her, and to sympathize with her, but I just couldn’t.
There isn’t really a lot of things happening in most of the novel in terms of narrative arc, but that really doesn’t diminish the quality of the work. Normally, I find it hard to be interested in books that don’t depend largely on plot, but Lolita was different. I found myself rather engaged by the relationship between Humbert and Lolita, and also in the psychological inner workings of Humbert’s “problem”.
All in all, definitely happy that I finally got around to reading Lolita. It lives up to its reputation as an interesting, complex piece of writing, one that I found hard to put down.
(The annotated version, though? Unless you’re looking at the book in a scholarly sense … skip it. Too much information, and most of it doesn’t relate directly to this novel itself. Plus, it makes it really hard to maintain reading flow.)