Asaf Bartov (ijon) wrote,
Asaf Bartov

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Beat like a drum?

I've finally run out of excuses and am reading Lolita now. The prose is delectable; indeed, it is rich and mellifluous, and quite bewitching. Humbert Humbert, like his creator, is a hyper-cultured European intellectual, interested in obscure French verse (as is Nabokov, judging by the Ronsard poem he quotes), and possessed of a refined vocabulary and an elegant style. And yet, Nabokov sees fit to use the hackneyed simile "My heart beat like a drum..." (in Humbert's quoted diary, of his first days at the Haze household, if you want to look it up) in Humbert's self-describing prose.

Everything I've heard of and read about Vladimir Nabokov suggests that he was decidedly elitistic, abhorred clichés, and merrily stung other writers' styles. His prose is so polished that I find it hard to believe that it is merely a slip of the pen. Is it perfume from a dress that made him so transgress? (pardon me) What do you think? If, as I think, this is used on purpose, how do you explain Nabokov's choice of words here?

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