The Enchanter, Vladimir Nabokov

What the damn hell, Vladimir Nabokov?!

Okay, so it’s not fair that anyone should be able to write about pedophiles and have it be beautiful.

You hear me, Nabokov? It’s not fair that you could write about pedophiles and have it be beautiful.

It’s not fair because the amount of good you have to be, the amount of skill you have to possess to be able to do that, is fucking unbelievable. And he didn’t just write one book like that. Oh, no. I’ve read Lolita, and it’s gorgeous (and that messes with your head, believe me), but this is not Lolita. This is The Enchanter. It’s basically the precursor to Lolita, a book thought lost but rediscovered and translated by Nabokov’s son. You can tell, a bit, that it’s a translation – while parts of it have that glimmering Nabokovian brilliance, there are parts that don’t ring as true. Lolita was written in English, and that’s part of why it’s so impressive.

This book goes more than a bit differently. There’s no Humbert Humbert; you in no way feel for the protagonist. He’s genuinely terrible, and there’s not much about him to empathize with. The characters don’t have names, so you feel almost like a voyeur, like you’re watching this terrible parade of humanity and you don’t quite have to engage in it. And, as is his custom, Nabokov rendered all of this perfectly, beautifully. I have one more Nabokov to go this month, and I’m going to save it for the end.

Books read: 17


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