InNoReMo 2008: Lolita, Pt. 2, Ch.s 6-19

Roughly between chapters 2 and 9 of the second part, the novel reaches its nadir (so far) and I have little to say about that bit. There is a general problem with writing that Nabokov has to deal with here: It is very hard to convey the impression that a protagonist’s life is uneventful, even boring, without boring the reader. Nabokov does a very good job – I did not find those bits of the novel boring – but in my view, those chapters are the weakest so far and it is a good thing that he gets Humbert and Lolita back on the road, throwing in a few full-blown conflicts for good measure.

Favourite Passages
I now warn the reader not to mock me and my mental daze. It is easy for him and me to decipher now a past destiny; but a destiny in the making is, believe me, not one of those honest mystery stories where all you have to do is keep an eye on the clues. In my youth I once read a French detective tale where the clues were actually in italics; but that is not McFate’s way – even if one does learn to recognize certain obscure indications.
Indeed. From the 1930s onwards psychologists have shown that humans’ memories of what happened tend to be overly coherent; we tend to transform the sometimes rather chaotic succession of events into a well-rounded narrative in which most elements make sense.* It is hence unsurprising that we wonder how we could be so stupid as not to see it coming. I think the mistake often does not lie with the former self who had to deal with multiple bits of information in real-time; rather, the mistake lies with the later self who, knowing the outcome, has constructed a coherent narrative in the light of which early signs seem obvious. It is easy to see all the clues if you already know who the murderer is.

Speaking of murderers, another great bit:
It occured to me that if I were really losing my mind, I might end by murdereing somebody. In fact – said high-and-dry Humbert to floundering Humbert – it might be quite clever to prepare things – to transfer the weapon from box to pocket – so as to be ready to take advantage of the spell of insanity when it does come.
Almost certain to be quoted in the next pop-neurology book that deals with ambivalence. Assuming those neurotypes read novelists other than Proust.

*Researchers who work with data based on quantitative interviews speak of “hindsight bias”, which is sort of a ragbag term for the fact that information given by respondents about events past may not be particularly accurate. Other researchers conduct less structured qualitative interviews asking open-ended questions and letting interviewees answer as they wish, thus gaining more depth of information. As far as I know, there is little awareness in these circles of the problem mentioned. This is particularly regrettable given that the latter group of researchers sometimes asks respondents about pretty much all of their life.

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