The moral sense in mortals is the duty
We have to pay on mortal sense of beauty.
While reading Lolita, I found myself consistently trying to decipher Nabokov’s intention, his hidden meaning, his message. Afterall, why would any self-respecting author seemingly glorify the plight of a demented pedophile victimizing one unlucky girl? What would Nabokov have us, the reader, learn?
Ах вы пропустил красоты, дорогие Бен. Вы пропустили красоты.
If nothing else, Nabokov created a masterpiece of literary composition (written in a non-native language), dazzling vocabulary and scintillating sensations – a work boiling over with ecstasy, pain, anxiety, passion and corruption. What else do we want to read? Judgement? Hatred? Condemnation? Why? Reading Lolita celebrates humanity which is not synonymous with the endorsement of social taboo. What great art ever celebrated social norms or taboo? It simply honors the humane which, unfortunately, stands at odds, often times, with social norms. To honor social taboo for the sake of honoring social taboo would be a banal waste of talent and a lack of artistic insight.
Lolita is art – not a message preached from a soapbox for or against what the reader may find disgusting or immoral. Unlike others, Humbert Humbert follows the inspirations of what he interprets as beautiful. As opposed to others, those who consider themselves morally upright and normal, he acts on his urges toward beauty with complete disregard for its corrupting affects on others. Our moral stance, as a civilized society, urges us to deny our primitive urges toward what we find beautiful. Again, Nabokov saves his breath regarding judgement or consent, he only explores the idea of humanity following its sense of beauty and curbing all law preventing him from having his fill.
In form, Nabokov obliterates convention, as does his story. He transcends common methods by telling Humbert’s story through Humbert’s perspective, as a memoir written under the knowing eye of a damning society. His style feels like that from a scholarly Kerouac and his sensitivity to all feelings – feelings which begin as morally nondescript emotions before qualified by the reader as “good” or “bad” – is superb.
Perhaps immortality will relieve Humbert of his moral duty to his mortal sense of beauty and allow him to do better by Lolita. Or, perhaps morality and mortality are intentionally similar, nearly identical, and immortality will cleanse Humbert and Lolita’s relationship of moral degeneration.
In any case, their immortality is the book I’ve just read. If there is a message in this book, anything to be learned, it is simply how the book itself, its form and perspective, its shape and purpose, serves not the reader, but the people within the story. In so doing, it stands as incorruptible art.
I am thinking of aurochs and angels, the secret of durable pigments, prophetic sonnets, the refuge of art. And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.