This year, in my reading spree, I added the book My Dark Vanessa, which is the narrative of a girl groomed, raped, molested, threatened and abandoned by her teacher for years. It was a story that shook me to my very bone, it was a painful eye opening experience that left me angry, wise, sad and simmering.
In the book, the teacher presents her with a « gift » in the beginning, which is nothing but the book Lolita by Nabokov. It is obviously a great description of his character without actually saying anything. So when I finished the book, I added Lolita to my to read list.
Two nights ago, I received an email to my personal account from a guy named Tony, with the subject of “I just have a question” and started it with “don’t you differentiate between the author and the character?”
I finished the book more than a month ago and I left my review at Goodreads, I expressed my opinion that this book is only a guidebook for pedophiles, it has no literary merit and it should not be a part of the canon, as we don’t need to hear a pedophile’s side of the story. I ended my review with a big finger to Nabokov, losing all respect for him, deciding never to read any of his books.
And this was not the first person to criticize me for criticizing Nabokov for writing a pedophile story, a story which leaves little for imagination and much for speculation into whether Nabokov was the pedophile himself or knew one in person or just wished to be and this would be his story to get away with it if he ever got caught.
Article 19. Of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
This took me right back to my time in graduate school in English literature where our “professor” who seemed to have stopped reading books at the age of 10 and did not show any interest in books, social matters or political subjects, who probably thought the earth was still flat and abused female students whenever he could just because he could get away with it, this same professor told us that turn of the screw written by the whitest blandest most boring heterosexual cisgender male writer of the 19th century, which he himself had NOT read yet by the way, was very important and “enjoyable” because it was in the canon, the same canon made by the same string of whitest blandest most boring heterosexual cisgender sexist racist males who did not read books themselves.
So in the story of Tony and the “professor”, Nabokov has the right to write all he wants and normalize sexualizing and victim blaming minor girls and we are supposed to applaud him for his canonical literary genius, in a world where the likes of R. Kelly roam the earth free because he generated revenue and his fame is more important than the lives of all the girls he raped, and when you google him, the results says singer and anthropologist and his crimes are only alleged accusations, in this world Nabokov gets to familiarize us with the “obscure” mentality of the predator and the rapist, because that was what we were missing all along! More white male voices in the crowd!
The problem with Tony is that he has the right to “Question” me for criticizing his favorite pedophile, but he does not seem to deem me worthy of “questioning” the existence, the popularity, the literary value of this piece of “work”.
The problem with the existing dominating systems such as patriarchy and its protégée religion, is that they abhor doubt and they despise anyone who dares to question their rule over our thoughts, our bodies, our entities, and our autonomy. We have to hush on our questions to keep forever the status quo, because god forbid Lolita loses some stars on Goodreads and it becomes obsolete and people stop shoving it down our throats for generations to come as a piece of art!
I believe the right every human should have is the right to question, and I will do that and I won’t stop.
So if you are a Tony out there, why are you asking the wrong questions? What are you hiding? And who and what are you defending?