Lolita has achieved iconic status as a literary masterpiece. But it's disturbing, highly disturbing, because of its subject matter, pedophilia. Even worse, you find yourself taking the side of...rooting for... identifying with...ohgod-ohgod...a pedophile. And you find yourself laughing. The pedophile is a wickedly funny narrator. How does Nabokov do it?
A LitLovers LitPick (Sept. '08)
[Lolita's] illicit nature will both shock the reader into paying attention and prevent sentimentally false sympathy from distorting his judgment. Contrariwise, I believe, Mr. Nabokov is slyly exploiting the American emphasis on the attraction of youth and the importance devoted to the “teen-ager” in order to promote an unconscious identification with Humbert’s agonies. Both techniques are entirely valid. But neither, I hope, will obscure the purpose of the device: namely, to underline the essential, inefficient, painstaking and pain-giving selfishness of all passion, all greed—of all urges, whatever they may be, that insist on being satisfied without regard to the effect their satisfaction has upon the outside world. Humbert is all of us.
Elizabeth Janeway - The New York Times, 1958
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