What an infuriating literary experience. On the one hand, the loathsome premise of the novel was so off-putting, at times it was all I could do to force myself to read on. On the other hand, Nabakov’s dazzling narrative is like the literary equivalent of Cirque de Soliel – simultaneously brilliant, recondite, terrifying, manipulative, and mesmerizing.
Talk about a book that defies characterization! Is it literature? (Those gorgeous passages of prose, those pretentiously long passages of French!) Philosophy? (Those Sartre references, those reflections on love and fate!) Social commentary? (Those rhapsodic odes to small-town America!) Satire? (Those deliciously spiteful jabs directed at psychology & education; that preposterously pedantic forward!) Farce? (That hilariously absurd denouement in which he finally brings to ground his imagined nemesis!) Tragedy? (Humbert Humbert as Oedipus Redux?) An exploration of deviant psychology? Pornography? An extended Joycianesque jest? In truth, the novel is all those things at once, which – I suppose – is precisely what makes it so infuriating. You want to hate the thing, but it’s just so damned brilliant.