There is a relationship between Humbert Humbert’s desire for nymphets and his artistic gifts. The common link is obsession, which Lolita suggests is the connector between sexual perversion and artistic talent. Humbert Humbert’s passion for Lolita is not only perverse, but also physically and intellectually obsessive. He is not satisfied with merely molesting Lolita, or even with having sex with her, as more ordinary pedophiles might be. These things, to him, fall short of his ultimate goal, which is to “fix once for all the perilous magic of nymphets.” Humbert Humbert literally wants to know Lolita “inside out,” and he lavishes his attention—physically and with his mind—on every minute detail of her body and manner. This physical obsession with Lolita is microscopic: he takes pleasure in licking a speck from her eye, feeling the tiny downy hairs on her legs, and even in noticing the shine of her hair. His precise physical obsession is analogous to his equally precise artistic obsession, which is to immortalize Lolita in writing. As a pedophile and as an artist, Humbert is obsessed with small details. The linked themes of artistic and sexual obsession are two of the most common in Nabokov’s novels, appearing in his novels Pale Fire and Ada, or Ardor, among others. As a writer, Nabokov believed that obsessive attention to detail was the hallmark of all truly great artists.
Perversity, Obsession, and Art ThemeTracker
Perversity, Obsession, and Art Quotes in Lolita
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul.
Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as ‘nymphets’
Lolita had been safely solipsized.
…and my moaning mouth, gentlemen of the jury, almost reached her bare neck, while I crushed out against her left buttock the last throb of the longest ecstasy man or monster had ever known.
I had stolen the honey of a spasm without impairing the morals of a minor. Absolutely no harm done. The conjurer had poured milk, molasses, foaming champagne into a young lady’s new white purse; and lo, the purse was intact.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the majority of sex offenders that hanker for some throbbing, sweet-moaning, physical but not necessarily coital, relation with a girl-child, are innocuous, inadequate, passive, timid strangers who merely ask the community to allow them to pursue their practically harmless, so-called aberrant behavior, their little hot wet private acts of sexual deviation without the police and society cracking down on them.
In the gay town of Lepingville I bought her four books of comics, a box of candy, a box of sanitary pads, two cokes, a manicure set, a travel clock with a luminous dial, a ring with a real topaz, a tennis racket, roller skates with high white shoes, a portable radio set, chewing gum, a transparent raincoat, sunglasses, some more garments—swooners, shorts, all kinds of summer frocks. At the hotel we had separate rooms, but in the middle of the night she came sobbing into mine, and we made it up very gently. You see, she had absolutely nowhere else to go.
My only grudge against nature was that I could not turn my Lolita inside out and apply voracious lips to her young matrix, her unknown heart, her nacreous liver, the sea-grapes of her lungs, her comely twin kidneys.
We all admire the spangled acrobat with classical grace meticulously walking his tight rope in the talcum light; but how much rarer art there is in the sagging rope expert wearing scarecrow clothes and impersonating a grotesque drunk! I should know.”
It is not the artistic aptitudes that are secondary sexual characters as some shams and shamans have said; it is the other way around: sex is but the ancilla of 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.