1. hypnetric
    Offline

    hypnetric New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2016
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0

    Started reading Lolita: question about Humbert

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by hypnetric, Jan 31, 2016.

    I just started reading Lolita, and I had a question.

    How does the reader ever know that Humbert Humbert is the narrator?

    I picked up the annotated version, so I was able to piece it together, because the annotations keep saying, "H.H. says this," and "H.H. says that." I started wondering if this "H.H." was some literary scholar that analyzed Lolita.

    But then beginning from about page 19, the narrator starts referring to this "Humbert Humbert" amidst references to other people like Dante. So you get the impression "Humbert" is merely another person he's citing.

    But I would not have thought that he was referring to himself in the third person.

    So my question is: did I miss something in the beginning?

    Also: were you able to figure out Humbert Humbert is the narrator himself?

    Because again, I'm 20-some pages in, and I have yet to come across any dialogue, where an associate would call him Humbert. There was one dialogue that was an exchange in French, but yeah... pretty discouraged by the way this is written so far. Just a little too abstract/poetic for my taste.
     
  2. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    Nabokov is very "purple", so it just might not be to your tastes. Having said that, I can't stand purple prose and I adore Lolita. I think it's masterfully done.

    I don't remember being confused about who was narrating but equally, I don't remember how I knew who the narrator was. Not very helpful of me...
     
  3. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,352
    Likes Received:
    2,896
    Location:
    Boston
    I read it a long time ago, but I think I remember it being mentioned fairly early on. I could be wrong, however, so I suggest you keep reading. Maybe it'll be more obvious after a couple more chapters.
     
  4. BayView
    Offline

    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2014
    Messages:
    5,665
    Likes Received:
    5,159
    There's a fictional foreword, written by a fictional editor. It's that part of the book - the first few pages, I think - that's written in third person. The rest is in first person. He does sometimes refer to himself in third person, but it's in a sort of colloquial way, like Kanye West might refer to himself as Kanye.
     
  5. hypnetric
    Offline

    hypnetric New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2016
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thanks guys. Yes, I did some digging around, and it turns out, I skipped the foreword.

    I usually do, because often times, it spoils the ending.

    Little did I know, the foreword of this book is an integral part of the book. And yes, it does spoil the ending, as I expected, haha.

    Having said that, yes, this is way too purple for my taste. Not only purple, but abstract and nebulous to the point of incomprehensibility at times. The prose is trying too hard to impress. I knew nothing about Nabokov prior to reading this, but because I have the annotated version, I noticed in his bibliography, he was a Russian native, and he's also written many Russian novels. The whole time I'm reading this, I picture Nabokov, type writer on one side, piles of dictionaries and thesauruses on the other.

    It reads like a foreign language novel that was badly translated.

    The annotations also explain Nabokov used French to give the impression the narrator is sophisticated, but I disagree. It comes off grossly pretentious, humor is farcical and corny, and the incessantly purple prose renders the narrator a pathetic, fawning idiot. If you had a friend who came to you and described a woman this way, you would tell him to cut it out.

    If Nabokov's intention was to present the piece as deliberately badly written, he succeeds in that alone. But for those who exemplify the prose as "masterful" and "perfection" seem to taken by Nabokov's penchant for longwinded, verbose sentence structure, vague and opaque references, cheesy allusions, and heavy reliance on the dictionary/thesaurus to mask his literary insecurities.
     
  6. Tenderiser
    Offline

    Tenderiser Not a man Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 12, 2015
    Messages:
    4,288
    Likes Received:
    5,161
    Location:
    London, UK
    Oh, right. Thanks for letting me know I've been taken in. :D

    Perhaps Twilight is more for you.
     
    BayView likes this.
  7. hypnetric
    Offline

    hypnetric New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2016
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    It's just an...

    opinion.

    And no, I've never read Twilight or Harry Potter or whatever other YA book you insist is more for anybody who disagrees with your personal opinion and preferences.
     
  8. daemon
    Offline

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    982
    I read the foreward, so yes. (I was also already familiar with the plot before I started reading.)
    I can appreciate the cleverness of it to some extent, but yeah, it did feel less like a story I should care about and more like a vehicle to show off how clever and worldly the narrator is. Maybe I should read it again and focus more on the story this time now that the initial "my my, aren't you a clever one" impression has worn off.

    I definitely do not agree with your assessment that it is written badly or that the wordplay is there to cover up some kind of authorial insecurity, though.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2016
  9. uncephalized
    Offline

    uncephalized Active Member

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2015
    Messages:
    111
    Likes Received:
    58
    Nabokov is a very challenging read. The last time I tried him I was in my teens. I couldn't stand Lolita and I don't remember getting much out of Pnin or Pale Fire either. Unfortunately it was for a paper and I had to slog through them anyway.

    Maybe I'll give him another try sometime, but I agree with OP. Nabokov is overrated.
     
  10. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,106
    Likes Received:
    5,317
    Location:
    California, US
    I thought Lolita was brilliantly done. Yes, the foreward is important to setting up the novel - it's key because of how the novel is structured. I liked Pale Fire as well, but there's a reason Lolita is the one that tends to pop up on lit of best English-language novels.
     
  11. MockingJD
    Offline

    MockingJD Member

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2016
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    NYC
    You're breaking my heart -- Nabokov is a beautiful writer! Maybe try Pnin? Or Pale Fire?
     

Share This Page