Lolita is a stunning book, originally adapted for the screen by Kubrick, but more recently by Adrian Lyne - a British director.

This version stars Jeremy Irons as Humbert, and Melanie Griffith as the woman he marries to get closer to the object of his affections: the young siren, Lo.

Having loved the book and previous film, I was prepared to find this modern version an unsatisfactory re-working of the story, but really I have to say, it shone.

Irons is perfect for the role - his desperation for Lola, frustration when she manipulates or rebels against him, and ultimately his position as a man on the outskirts of social boundaries is played out beautifully and Griffith is perfectly cast as his whingy, irritaing wife.

Dominque Swain oozes a mesmirising mixture of childish playfulness and full-on sex appeal and it was due to her magnetism that for the duration of the film I wanted to be Lolita, and any man watching wanted to do her.

By association with the Nabakov novel any young girl who is sexually precocious tends to be labelled a Lolita.

Flirtatiousness in young girls (below the age of consent) along with using sexual power to get what one wants or to manipulate the actions of an older man is considered Lolita-like behaviour.

This is slightly less loaded term than jailbait

This label persists despite the fact that, in the book, most of Lolita's precocity and manipulation is fictional - a projection by her obsessed stepfather of is own perverse desires onto the child

It is curious to see how the common connotation of Lolita so vastly differes then the original Vladimir Nabokov character, Dolores Haze. I have always found it interesting that the term Humbert has never come to mean pedophile, while the term Lolita has come to mean whore, strumpet, vixen, etc. Nonetheless, the book is one of the most gorgeous works of prose I have ever read. To think, Nabokov's native tongue wasn't even English.

Lolita is the 12 year old nymphet of the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. She is lusted after Humbert Humbert the narrator of the story. Her real name in the novel is Dolores Haze but Humbert Humbert calls her his Lolita.

Somehow the character of Lolita and the lust of Humbert Humbert in the novel remind me of Mathilda a 12 year old girl in the movie Leon: The Professional by Luc Besson. Mathilda falls in love with a much older man (Leon) and the situation represented here is reversed.

Whether Lolita loved Humbert Humbert back or it was just an infatuation I am unsure of. Even if she did run all the way up the stairs before she went to summer camp to kiss him. But I believe that Humbert's was real, though it was also the act of a pedophile as he did describe his adventures of sleeping with young girls.

Mathilda and Leon shared a sweet love too, she believed that she was in love with him, while he loved her like a daughter, thrown together by the death of her family, and also Lolita and Humbert are thrown together by the death of her mother.

Maybe this common love grew more than it naturally was for the girls after the death of their parent figures because now they depended on this certain person and the loved their shared for their parents was transferred to their caretaker added to the respect that they already had for them.

"A strange and awful love story"

The 1997 film version by Adrian Lyne is really really pretty and I love the cinematic focus. I love the 50’s road trip images and the summertime kitschy music and the garden Lo lay in, being sprinkled with water whilst turning pages in a book filled with full page glossy pictures of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe.

I found Jeremy Irons’ interpretation of Humbert Humbert to be really creepy, but really creepily sweet. The most chilling parts of the movie were when it would be silent in the morning and then Delores would suddenly start kissing this old man, adolescently and tongue-ingly. The wrongest part was when Delores took out her dental plate before going down on him. The saddest part was when, on a humid day in a beachside motel, Delores sat on Humbert’s lap reading a comic which went translucent in the light which streamed in from the window.. she was giggling at this childish comic book indulgence, and then Humbert pulls her on to him and she starts lightly groaning, orgasming, distracted from her kiddie time.

I watched this film with two boys and they ended up disgusted with themselves, never being able to decide if they found Delores childish and repulsive, or damn sexual. They started questioning their carnal nature. Even I found Delores sexy, and I’m a girl. (this makes me guilty of not only imaginative paedophilia, but also bisexuality).

Kubrick's version of Lolita was a “cool, ironic, droll piece of work” ( that didn't focus so much on the sexual aspects of the novel but more on the mystery, with the ‘baddie’, Quilty, taking up far more screen time than his presence in the book. Another interesting point is that Nabokov helped Kubrick to write his screenplay.*

It is uncertain whether Nabokov's original story of Lolita is merely a joke on middle class America or whether it is about obsession, or love, or lust. It took Nabokov seven years to write what he referred to as "a short novel about a man who liked little girls". It was rejected as pornography by American publishers and was finally published in Paris by Olympia Press. After a spate of gleaming reviews it was eventually published in the United States. Vanity Fair called it “the only convincing love story of our century".

Thanks to GangstaFeelsGood for that little tidbit :)

Nabokov's Lolita has a palpable, erotic, and equally disturbing response in Pia Pera's Lo's Diary. The work was translated from Italian to English in 1999, with a forward from Dmitri Nabokov (Vladimir's son) which focuses mainly on the copyright issues. In the vein of Marion Zimmer Bradley (the Firebrand, Mists of Avalon) and John Gardner (Grendel) Lo's Diary takes upon the delicate challenge of constructing a fresh, believable perspective of another character. This quote of Lo's from the cover immediately ensnared me...

"My lips are almost impeccably painted: it's like a piece of me has been peeled away, a tiny lip muscle laid bare, red blood just veiled by skin too fine to hide the flesh, so in reality two pairs of lips can be seen, superimposed...a dizzying, out-of-focus effect."

The socially uncomfortable realities of the blurred worlds between adolescence and adulthood and that line where sexuality is drawn is never more implicit than in this book. Pera moves us back and forth on the pendulum of little girl innocence and big girl desires in the flesh of one Lolita.

In 19th century England, Oscar Wilde found the British social purity movement to be a formidable opposing force. His already controversial work, in combination with a growing public imperative for reform, led to the suppression of both his writings and to legal attacks on Wilde himself. Despite these repercussions, Wilde's work may be considered a success purely on the basis of its ability to secure the attention of its readers, a challenge in any culture. When faced with this task in 20th century America, Nabokov was confronted by very different obstacles. While post-Victorian English society provided an excess of sacrosanct targets for Wilde's attacks, America is founded on the idea of a very few truly unquestionable rights, among these the right to free speech. If this right is revered above all else in our current culture, it becomes supremely challenging for an author to truly unsettle or offend us. Nabokov exploits perhaps the last and most powerful modern taboo, the sexuality of a child, and thereby attracts the attention of even the most jaded audience. But this initial attraction would be worthless without a story worthy of the reader's attention. Lolita accomplishes this goal by adhering to Wilde's definition of Art as a fantastic lie. Its contents are fantastic exaggerations of reality, and secure the readers attention by their simultaneous absurdity and supposedly factual context. Lolita is, at its center, "Delightful fiction in the form of fact" (Wilde).

Sonya Rose argues in her essay, "Cultural Analysis and Moral Discourses," that a group defines itself by a set of commonly held ideals and assumptions, and that "culture" is defined as this set of preconceptions. She further distinguishes between different concepts as being unequally important, with some changing frequently, while others exist as unquestionable facts, constituting what she labels a "deep structure" (Rose). In Wilde's culture, this set of incontrovertible ideals included a fundamental homophobia that was so deeply inculcated in the broad social consciousness that any attempt by Wilde to attack these standards could only result in his defeat.

Nabokov's audience holds vastly different ideals than those Wilde attempted to reach. Nabokov wrote the book for Americans, a fact made clear by his frequent references to the difficulty of English, and his vicarious descriptions of America through Humbert. In her essay, "Fetish or Fatwa?", Steiner defines American fundamentalism as the belief in the right of free speech as an absolute. This position is supported by our Declaration of Independence, which defines this liberty as a truth so basic that it does not require explanation, the exact definition of Rose's "deep structure." How could an author, exercising freedom of speech, provoke a culture based on the validity of this freedom? The one place freedom of speech has been most frequently limited in America has been with the goal of protecting children and, most frequently, protecting them from sexual material. This tendency is evident in limitations placed on newspapers, radio, TV, movies, and more; the common goal is to protect children from what we consider obscenity. This pattern illuminates one of the very few areas where Americans are willing to compromise the idea of freedom of speech, a rarity that Nabokov recognizes as a cultural sore spot that can be exploited to command attention.

Wilde defines art as a lie, a falsity at odds with reality but capable of delivering a form of beauty beyond reality. In his dialogue "The Decay of Lying" Wilde uses the character Vivian to argue Wilde's ideas on art and its role in a culture. In Wilde's view, art is the creation of an ideal or of a concept in a way it cannot exist in life. To accomplish this, an artist must craft a self-sufficient archetype that ignores the limitations of reality, relying instead on its internal beauty; "Art finds her own perfection within, and not outside of, herself" (Wilde). A work of realism, in contrast, bases itself on external facts, thereby limiting itself both to a restricted set of rules and preventing it from every being entirely original. Synthesizing this perception of art and realism, Wilde praises most highly the art disguised as realism, such as that of the ancient historians who "Gave us delightful fiction in the form of fact" (Wilde). Wilde's definition of art is likely shared by Nabokov, a possibility supported both by Lolita's adherence to that definition and Nabokov's own words. Lolita is itself a "Delightful fiction in the form of fact," a goal it accomplishes by establishing a fantastic and realistically impossible story as supposed truth.

The perception of Lolita as fact is carefully nurtured through roughly the first half of the book. This cultivation begins with the opening introduction, which establishes a third party that simultaneously vouches for the accuracy of the document and contextualizes it by providing supposedly factual background and details on the fictional characters. Nabokov is essentially using lies to lend credence to his main storyline, another lie. This method of self-sufficient lying is extolled by Wilde as the product of "The true liar, with his frank, fearless statements, his superb irresponsibility, his healthy, natural disdain of proof of any kind! After all, what is a fine lie? Simply that which is its own evidence." (Wilde). Nabokov's deception continues in his choice of format. Whereas a work of fiction with an omniscient narrator repeatedly reminds the reader that the story is fake, by using Humbert to narrate Nabokov leaves the reader with no internal proof of the falsity of the story. Furthermore, the format of a testimony easily lends itself to the many minor tactics Nabokov employs to insinuate that the story is fact. These include Humbert's constant citing of records, the narrator's ability to talk directly to the reader, as well as providing the impetus for the existence of the work at all. Because of the selected format, all these methods can be used without reminding the reader that the work is fiction.

Lolita, both internally and externally, is fiction. For the obvious reason that it did not occur, we can externally judge it and determine it to be fantasy. Perhaps more importantly, the book's opening insistence of truth gives way to an internal declaration of fiction. As the book progresses, many of the reminders Nabokov used to convince the reader that the story is real disappear, and other factors remind the reader with increasing intensity that the story is pure fiction. These cues include the storyline, which becomes increasingly fantastic as it moves from the fairly believable story of a closet pedophile to the surreal murder of a mysterious abductor. The reader becomes increasingly skeptical as each new level of unbelievable lie is added. While the first significant impossibility of Humbert's chance fatherhood of Lolita is generally accepted, by the time Humbert is being chased by a half-imagined phantom, and his normally carefully ordered thoughts have lost their coherence and reason, the reader is constantly aware of the impossibility of the story. When the book climaxes in the most surreal of murders, the reader cannot retain any faith in what has become almost a strange fairy tale. Any remaining semblance of fact is dismissed by the afterward, which specifically talks about Lolita as a work of fiction, and even goes so far as to talk about the introduction as being fictional. At this point, Nabokov has successfully presented the reader with a story that can be subconsciously read as if it were fact, and successfully completely broken down this impression.

With regard to Wilde's definition of art as an imaginative and illustrative lie presented as fact, Lolita both meets and exceeds this basis. Not only does Nabokov successfully "trick" the reader into thinking of the novel as fact, but he goes beyond, deliberately showing the reader the trick, and forcing the reader to think about the work as a constructed lie. Nabokov manages to force the reader to further consider the work by selecting a topic that pits American's fundamentalist belief in the freedom of speech with our willingness to compromise that freedom to protect exactly the kind of exploitation and corruption that is the subject of the novel. The combined effect of these methods is to produce a work of art that requires and obtains both the reader's attention and understanding.


There was a veinal thrill in the months between fourteen and seventeen. There had been hints at it earlier; at twelve, ten, perhaps even seven if my memory has not betrayed me. To revel in the sheer, innocent lasciviousness of being a young girl was to look in from outside. To eroticize the self as desirable object, porcelain doll, coveted colt.

Driving me home from a group gathering at Shari's: a young liar with a ponytail played music to appeal to me, woman-child, and agreed with me that age had nothing to do with mental maturity. Yes, especially for dating. Everyone else was dropped off, the pedagogue's car lifting from its load of jealous children. Not jealous of me or of him, but with the avarice of youth in a small town. We wanted to Move to Seattle. We wanted to be artists, actors, designers. We needed these things, or the thoughts of them, to sustain the fevered pace of our waiting.

He asked for my phone number. I do not know now whether I gave it to him or not, but I received a phone call from him later, at home, when his pheromones had ceased their threat or their intoxication (for it is a mixture of both with the older men, always). I was frightened and pleased at once. This time I had teased too much, beguiled the wrong mark; someone who did not have the failsafes of societal conditioning. My thirteen was not a taboo. He received a phone call from one of my large male friends and never spoke to me again. I had won after all.

A year later, that large male friend seduced me with anger and devotion, still far older than I, old enough to know better. I knew better, but was not old enough to act on that knowledge. I was old enough to writhe under his long hands with their curiously wide nailbeds until all hours of the morning. Old enough to pleasure him, too, delighted with my absolute power over his body and the way my pulse raced so that I felt I would faint. My body did not know the correct sensations to feed my brain. I learned over the course of months what it was to know all those tremblings. Pain was filed under Pleasure; for years afterwards it was difficult to tell the difference in context. My mons veneris was only dusted with hair, and that was soft as the first coat on a foal.

While my denial and ignorance insulated me, I was happy. Not just content, but spilling over with a kind of mad glee. Eventually I protected myself and he properly deflowered me in a tiny studio apartment in Bellingham. There was an awkward shower after that, and pain. Pain for days afterwards, and for the rest of my time as his girl. It would fade and be renewed, retorn, sometimes bloody but always taken in stride until it all began to crumble at the end, as these things are wont to do.


So I shed that skin, and writhed into the lap of a poet. That was a love forged in thunder, and we should have known the signs. Older still than the last one, and armed with words he wielded like venom. We tore at each other through three states; adoration, agony, and indifference kept me rapt for three years.

I was his Rosetta Stone; he carved as many languages as he knew into my flesh. Only when he finally deposited me, frigid and bleeding, at the mercy of my own strength, I began to erode his cuneiform. It is still legible, at my discretion.

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