Eklund, Erik. "A green lane in Paradise": Eschatology and Theurgy in Lolita. 2020-21

Author(s)
Bibliographic title
"A Green lane in Paradise": Eschatology and Theurgy in Lolita
Periodical or collection
Nabokov Studies
Periodical issue
17
Page(s)
35-60
Publication year
Abstract

Drawing upon a wealth of underdeveloped and theologically significant trajectories identified by scholars and gestured toward by Nabokov himself, this article addresses the central problem Humbert Humbert's post-mortem fate poses a theological reading of Lolita, namely, Humbert's allowance by his author to wander Paradise once a year for having repented and attained to genuine love for Dolores Haze. Against exclusively metafictional interpretations which problematically bracket ethics and transcendence from aesthetics, a theological reading of Lolita must begin by considering the eschatological orientation of Nabokov's poetics, which are founded upon an analogy between metafiction and metaphysics. To this end, Nabokov's relationship with Russian religious philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev funds a consideration of their shared belief in the theurgic power of art, which is deployed to map a way for coming to terms with the complex moral and theological predicament posed by Lolita. According to this model, Humbert does find redemption at the end of his journey even as this redemption neither trivializes nor justifies his evil conduct toward Dolores.