NABOKV-L post 0003398, Mon, 28 Sep 1998 16:26:11 -0700

Re: VN & Sentiment & Lolita (fwd)
>From Thomas Bolt

The following statement strikes me
as incomplete:

I don't think I even need to add
that _Lolita_ is about a passionate
love doomed to be unrequited, AND
NOT about pedophilia.

(Capitals mine.)

Closely akin to sentimentality is our
tendency to Booleanize complexities
- a tendency VN often deliberately
provokes and overturns. Ms. Korovina
has just restated Humbert's self-
justifying (and self-pityingly
sentimental) rationale for his
cruelties to Lolita.

H.H. is convincing, and (like many
perpetrators of cruelties) he is the
one telling the story. I would say that
*Lolita* is about a passionate
love doomed to be unrequited,
but only within quotation marks;
AND about pedophilia, AND most
especially about what happens when
someone uses another person to
fulfill a fantasy, or bends another
person to his or her will (or
program), and finds out too late
(and perhaps too conveniently) that
to do this is to destroy the possibility
of real love.

Lolita is made into a thing, love
is made into lust, and after the
cruel sport has run its course,
Humbert is sorry - but chiefly
sorry for himself.

Lolita is procrusteanized; this
is the source of her pain. Her
triumph, which H.H. no doubt
would have prevented if he could,
was to isolate some portion of
herself and keep it private while
in the power of as invasive and
demanding a person as H.H.

Humbert s story is the polished
carapace of *Lolita*; Lolita s
story, mostly inferred, the tender

We have to imagine her pain;
when we learn of it from H.H.,
it is usually in the form of a
complaint: as something that
interferes with his enjoyment,
or is a regrettable byproduct thereof.
He is sorry, but not sorry enough
not to cause the pain. THAT
is certainly sentimentality. In
Humbert cruelty and tenderness
fuse, and (as many readers have
pointed out) it is difficult not to
be carried away with his selfish
narrative and see things through
his eyes.

There are many clues, however,
that call his protestations and
remorse into question; and the
only pity we cannot doubt is
H.H. s pity for himself. In the last
paragraphs of the book, when
we are all *expecting* a soaring
conclusion, he gives us one -
but with a telltale flaw that I
believe tests precisely this idea
of sentiment and sentimentality
in VN . His diction: the word

The absence of her voice from
that concord --Just a little too
fine, too pretentious, too stilted
and studied, to be immune from
Humbert s self-indulgence;
even here, he is enjoying himself.
There are similar reminders
throughout the book.

Humbert s tragedy is that he
shows no sign of knowing what
love is until he is reunited with
the pregnant Lolita, and there
is a brief glimmer of selflessness.
Otherwise, with his two wives, his
girlfriend, and Lolita, he is not
a passionate lover at all, but a
parody of one.

Thomas Bolt