Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov , Afterword by Craig Raine , Foreword by John Ray (free download), ‘Lolita is comedy, subversive yet divine … You read Lolita sprawling limply in your chair, ravished, overcome, nodding scandalized assent’ Martin Amis, Observer.
Poet and pervert, Humbert Humbert becomes obsessed by twelve-year-old Lolita and seeks to possess her, first carnally and then artistically, out of love, ‘to fix once for all the perilous magic of nymphets’. Is he in love or insane? A silver-tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? Or is he all of these? Humbert Humbert’s seduction is one of many dimensions in Nabokov’s dizzying masterpiece, which is suffused with a savage humour and rich, elaborate verbal textures. Filmed by Stanley Kubrick in 1962 starring James Mason and Peter Sellers, and again in 1997 by Adrian Lyne starring Jeremy Irons and Melanie Griffith, Lolita has lost none of its power to shock and awe.
There’s no funnier monster in modern literature than poor, doomed Humbert Humbert. * The Independent * Nabokov can move you to laughter in the way that masters can – to laughter that is near to tears. * The Guardian * He did us all an honour by electing to use, and transform, our language. * Anthony Burgess *.
Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977), born in St Petersburg, exiled in Cambridge, Berlin, and Paris, became the greatest Russian writer of the first half of the twentieth century. Fleeing to the US with his family in 1940, he then became the greatest writer in English of the second half of the century, and even ‘God’s own novelist’ (William Deresiewicz). He lived in Europe from 1959 onwards, and died in Montreux, Switzerland. All his major works – novels, stories, an autobiography, poems, plays, lectures, essays and reviews – are published in Penguin Modern Classics.