Vladimir Nabokov

Fraysse, Suzanne. The carmen in Nabokov’s Lolita. 2020

Bibliographic title
The carmen in Nabokov’s Lolita
Publisher, city
Periodical or collection
The Five Senses in Nabokov's Works
Publication year
Lolita is Nabokov’s investigation of lyric poetry both as a celebration of beauty and love and as a lament over an absent woman. It explores its paradoxical nature: it is rooted in the senses and yet strives to domesticate and even deny the shock it springs from. Humbert embodies the sins of the lyrical poet who cultivates hypesthesia but really ignores the woman he celebrates for the sake of a literary game designed to steal the carmen from the woman in the hope of taking her place as the object of the reader’s fascination. But he is also a poet manqué whose lyrical bubble is burst by an ethical thorn. The ethos of the poet is revealed to be crucial to lyric enchantment: Nabokov’s Lolita may thus succeed where Humbert’s fails.