InNoReMo 2008: Lolita, Part 1, Ch.s 23-33

With Charlotte Haze out of the way, things now really get going. Charlotte's death in combination with Lolita's still being in the summer camp leaves Humbert alone for a few pages' time and gives the reader the opportunity to observe how, despite his obsession, he cooly plans Lolita's seduction. In the end, it turns out that it is Lolita's seduction indeed in the sense that she is the one who initiates intercourse (if we are to trust Humbert's version of what happened, that is). That's a nice parallel to what we observed earlier: Humbert planned killing Charlotte but just couldn't do it - and then his problem is resolved by others. Same with sex with Lolita - one might guess that it would never have happened if it hadn't been for her initiative.

When reading the hotel scenes I thought that hotels are underused (though by no means unheard of) as literary settings. I'm not sure, but it might have something to do with parts of them being almost completely private, while others are almost completely public, and it only takes a few seconds to get from one sphere to the other. The same geographical-social structure can not usually be found in regular houses.

Interestingly, when Humbert finally reaches his aim, he tells precious little about the act itself (so far). A few possible reasons:

1. Nabokov didn't want to push his luck.

2. The experience is so intense that Humbert can't find words for it.

3. Humbert experiences sex with Lolita as quasi-holy and doesn't want to represent it in any clarity for the same reason that Muslims are not supposed to produce or own pictures of Allah.

4. The act itself is not that interesting to Humbert; it's about imposing his will, reaching his aim, or some such thing. Seems unlikely in the context of the novel.

5. Despite his despicable obsession, Humbert comes across as a well-mannered, restrained person. (Remember that we were promised no dirty words in the foreword.) Maybe one doesn't talk about these things in his circles.

Or maybe there are more graphic descriptions coming up - I really don't remember - and all of the above is void.

Favourite passage
The widower, a man of exceptional self-control, neither wept nor raved. He staggered a bit, that he did; but he opened his mouth only to impart such information or issue such directions as were strictly necessary in connection with the identification, examination and disposal of a dead woman, the top of her head a porridge of bone, brains, bronze hair and blood. The sun was still a blinding red when he was put to bed in Dolly's room by his two friends, gentle John and dewy-eyed Jean; who, to be near, retired to the Humberts' bedroom for the night; which, for all I know, they may not have spent as innocently as the solemnity of the occasion required.
Favourite expressions

I'm fairly sure these were not coined by Nabokov, but they are not that widely in use:

"varicolored" (130 000 google hits vs. 3 240 000 for "multicolored")

"lake-scapes" (less-than-six numbers for various spellings vs. 161 000 000 for "landscape")

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