What Can Lolita Teach Us About Love?


Mary Gaitskill thinks Nabokov’s “madcap orgy of Thanatos” nevertheless speaks to lovers:

Love itself is not selfish, devouring or cruel, but in human beings it suffers a terrible coexistence with those qualities; really, with any other vile thing you might think of. These oppositions sometimes coexist so closely and complexly that the lovers cannot tell them apart. This is not only true of sexual love, but also of the love between parents and children, siblings, and even friends. In most people this contradiction will never take the florid form it takes in Humbert Humbert. But such impossible, infernal combinations are there in all of us, and we know it. That Lolita renders this human condition at such an extreme, so truthfully, and yes, as von Rezzori says, convincingly, is the book’s most shocking quality. It is why it will never be forgotten.

(Photo by Alessandro Bovini)