Lolita is a novel, written in American English, by the Russian naturalized American writer Vladimir Nabokov, published in September 1955 in Paris.
The story is written as the long confession of a man, Humbert Humbert, introducing himself as a “nympholepte” Lo 1 and describing the relationship he had with Dolores Haze for several years. At the beginning of the novel, Humbert is 37 years old and the young girl, whom he nicknames “Lolita”, is 12 and a half years old. Humbert becomes her only parent through a series of coincidences and takes her on a two-year trip to the Midwest (United States), during which he recounts a devouring obsession that he qualifies as a love and sexual passion for the young girl. .
In the second part of the novel, Lolita runs away with another man, and Humbert wanders in search of them for three years, retracing the path in reverse in order to find clues to this man. At the end of the novel, Lolita writes to him, he joins her, and understanding that he still loves her although she is no longer a nymphet, offers her to leave with him, which she refuses. He tears from her the name of the man she had run away with, Clare Quilty, goes to kill him, then dies of a heart attack in prison before his trial. This confessional account is believed to have been written in prison and edited by a friend of his lawyer.
The subject of the book caused scandal and censorship upon its release, but the novel is now recognized as a masterpiece of modern literature; it is often cited as one of the most significant works of the 20th century. It thus appears in many lists of ideal libraries drawn up by people or organizations in literary circles.
Nabokov explores several themes, some of which are already present in his previous works. In addition to pedophilia and incest which are at the center of the work, it deals with psychoanalysis, duality, wandering, the gap between the culture of the United States and that of Europe.
The novel is interspersed with literary and poetic references, whether in the mouth of Humbert or, more explicitly, in the cultural treasure hunt that Quilty left to Humbert and that the latter uses during his search for Lolita.