Reading Lolita at 13

Spurred by the British Film Institute’s allegation that parents have become too vigilant in monitoring their children’s moviegoing, Kate Kellaway shares a striking, nuanced reminiscence of reading Vladimir Nabokov’s masterpiece at the tender age of 13:

I still remember finding it — by chance — although it did not feel like an accident: a paperback copy of Nabokov’s Lolita, abandoned on a landing bookshelf, with yellow pages, as though its last reader were no longer alive…. I knew, at once, by instinct, that it was ‘too old’ for me. And I knew I wanted to read it — without telling anyone. Guilt and secrecy — as if the book were sex itself (which, in a sense, it was). I didn’t read it from start to finish. I was just visiting, looking in on Nabokov’s swooningly unsafe prose about a girl who was (and this added to my complicated feelings) more or less my age. I was shocked, puzzled, aroused. Would it have been better if I had waited until I was grown up?


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