Upon deciding to start a blog, the first thing to do was to pick a name – a process which, of course, involved a lot of painful consideration. It had to be cool. It had to be hip. It had to make an impact so huge, it could make dinosaurs extinct all over again.
On and on it went, until days later I started to suspect maybe it wasn’t so easy to be phenomenal. (*and so evaporated my dreams of becoming an internet trend*).
Tail between my legs, I crept back to my mental cave, and realized that I had to change perspective. I simply had to pick something that reflected my views, who I was, what I was passionate about.
And finally it hit me that, having to choose only one quote, one something, that something had to be from Lolita. And if I have to start anywhere, I’ll start from here – from a book so wicked, it’s pretty damn awesome.
Lolita is a messed up story if you’ll ever read one. If fact, it could be retitled «memoirs of a pedophile with graphic enough descriptions of himself abusing a pre-teen girl». Yeah, if you were looking for a bedtime story to read to your kids, you might want to steer away from this one.
Yep. Yep, that’s what the plot’s about, folks.
Humbert Humbert, our main character, has always been obsessed with little girls (no, Humbert, calling them «nymphets» doesn’t make it sound any better, FYI). Being aware of his tendencies being – er – frowned upon by society (go figure) he has always struggled to hide and repress his urges.
This changes when he winds up renting a room from Charlotte Haze, a lonely, pretty-desperate-to-love-again widow. Humbert is an attractive, charming man, and the woman promptly sets her cap on him – not knowing that her greatest charm doesn’t reside in her looks and personality or even money, but in having a young daughter named Dolores.
Dolly is a spirited, mischievous, precocious girl fuelled by hormones and by a budding curiosity about sexuality. She develops a juvenile crush for the well-behaved, handsome man who ends up marrying her mum and becoming her stepfather.
When Charlotte conveniently dies in a car accident after discovering his true tendencies, Humbert understands that this is the chance of a lifetime. He takes Dolores (whom he refers to as «Lolita» or sometimes «Lo») with him on a roadtrip across the United States, in order to have his way with her without being caught. For months, Lolita travels with his captor, who repeatedly forces himself on her, until he decides to settle himself and his unwilling protégée in the little town of Beardsley.
It is there that Lolita meets an old acquaintance of her mother, the secretly depraved playwright Clare Quilty, and eventually elopes with him.
Humbert Humbert, mad with grief, searches for his beloved Dolores for years and years with no avail until it’s Dolores herself that sends him a letter.
Now seventeen and pregnant, married to good-hearted but poor Richard F. Schiller, she is in dire need of money (yeah, just how desperate do you have to be to ask your former rapist for money?). She had abandoned Quilty years earlier, after refusing to star in one of his erotic movies, and she is still heartbroken over him, but determined to start a new life with his husband in Canada.
Humbert asks her one more time to come with him, but when she refuses, he simply gives her four thousand dollars (quite a sum back then), says goodbye, and travels back to Quilty’s house where he shoots him to death, avenging his Lolita.
After being caught by authorities, he writes down his memoirs, severely repenting the way he had polluted his Lo’s life, and asking for the book to be published only when both him and his «daughter» have died. Both deaths occur shortly afterwards (he dies of coronary disease, she of childbirth), and so Lolita the novel is born.
I could have chosen another book, another story, another topic to start with my blog. Something more likely to let you sleep at night. I could have turned my parental control on. I could have…but I won’t.
Because it doesn’t matter how disturbed the story is, or how deeply uncomfortable it leaves the reader. This book is, in my opinion, the closest thing to a literary paradise we mortals can hope to get.
Lolita shows us everything that humans shouldn’t be and yet are. Every twisted, dark demon that snickers in the depths of our psyche, with all the depravity of a Donald Trump grabbing your p*****s, and all the darkness and death and sex and betrayal you can find on a Game of Thrones episode. All is grey. Is it Humbert the culprit, exploiting the innocence of a twelve-year-old girl? Or is it Lolita who seduces him? Is Humbert’s feelings for her love, or just cursed lust?
And yet Nabokov is not De Sade, and that leaves us angry as hell. Because it is not fair – it is not, dammit – to find among these pages also all us people can and should be. Why is it a monster like Humbert the one endowed with such a perfect talent for lyricism? Why is it him that can speak of love in such an heartbreaking way, in such a beautiful way, so beautiful that you almost (well, almost) forget that he is the lowest scum on Earth?
You read of love and passion and pain, and every line is a masterpiece, until you realize that us humans are all flawed, we are all Lolita and we are all Humbert. All mankind, with his glory and his depravity, trapped in a few printed pages. Nabokov’s writing, nothing short of bookporn, is freakin’ everything, there’s no way around it. Damn you, Vlad. Why did you do this to us?
Well, thank you for doing this to us, anyway.
And so, I decided to start by encouraging you to read this novel (save for therapy beforehand, tho. You might need it, not gonna lie). If I have to write about literature, I have to start from the worst and best book in the world.
And as for the title of this blog, yes, it comes from this very book. «And the rest» Humbert Humbert says, «is rust and stardust». This is all that remains to us when we’re gone: maybe our rusty remains, but mixed along with it, the dust from all the stars we tried to reach.