Thursday, October 29, 2009

Motel Love

What light does Nabokov’s Lolita shed on the importance of the Russian Revolution on modern American life? I’d say plenty. I see the vaguely European hero of that book as a Russian, much like the author, who is simultaneously startled by, and at home in, the American landscape. And what does Nabokov see in America? What does an exile from the Soviet experiment encounter here? I’d say he encounters a land of innocence, represented by the young woman his protagonist seduces, as well as her gullible mother.

America is a land of freedom too, where even a pedophile has access to highway anonymity and an endless string of cheap motels. To flip Talleyrand’s maxim on its head, Nabokov knew that nobody who had not lived through the Russian Revolution knew how wretched and vile life could be. Nabokov’s protagonist takes that vileness right into the heat of America, which is awaiting exploitation, betrayal, immorality, and disappointment.

If the reader feels that my grasp of this novel is weak, she is right: I’ve not read the book in many years. I can only say that this blog is centered on the small fragment of a novel or work of history that remain with you after you’ve put a book down for a month, year, or indeed decade. Sadly, it ain’t much…

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