Nabokov And Lolita Language Analysis

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Wandering in language(s): Nabokov and Lolita

George Steiner came up with the term ‘unhousedness’ in 1970’ies for writers of exile including Nabokov (Oviedo 559). His argument was that because they had to fled their ‘maternal house’ and come to inhabit an ‘international hotel of languages’ (Oviedo 559) they were made wanderers of languages loosing a sense of centre and in result establishing a stronger relationship with the new language than usually done. This echoes the journey in Lolita, moving through America from hotel to hotel and Nabokov’s own life living permanently in hotels. This loss of origin could birth a search for alternatives, and the foreign or other character Humbert Humbert to normality might be an expression of this as
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The language is a close part of the identity of Humbert Humbert in which sense we see the link between language and identity. The French language as stated by Antonina Gove is often the language of the ‘intelligentsia’ and is ‘an impersonalizing language’ (Gove 84) in Nabokov’s novels and relevantly Humbert is constantly criticising the American consumer culture and the lower class that Dolores and Charlotte Haze represent. It is also notable that Clare Quilty speaks French, however poorly, suggestive of Humbert’s superiority in this respect. The nonsense that Clare Quilty produces in French shows evidence of Nabokov’s involvement, as it in fact is quite clever and very like the nonsense verse you find in Alice in Wonderland. In one instance Nabokov is creating nonsense out of a verse by Kipling (Nabokov 448), which again suggests this international personality who can manoeuvre though different languages, playing with words, nevertheless, with the English tradition in mind. This makes Nabokov’s postscript a bit ironic since he throughout the novel is using the English canon as reference in which aspect it seems more than his heritage additional to his ability to play around with this content in different languages suggests that he does indeed transcend his heritage as an illusionist of languages. To the extend in which this is done may, however, be an indication of…show more content…
Cabrera is ‘a self-conscious interrogation of the nature and function of communication’ (53). She finds that ‘a large number of modernist writers (many of the also translators) were “foreigners” who sought to express the articulation of alternative identities through a radical new language’ (53). Though English is not a radical new language for Nabokov it is radical enough expressed through his own sense of lacking linguistic and literary devices in the newer language. By moving and being in new languages and cultures you also develop alternative identities that is then expressed with this foreignness as present in Lolita with the European and American tradition as well as the heritage of Humbert having parents of mixed descent (Nabokov 9). This is evident of exile and refugees that brought into a new union create a foreign experience. Cabrera further states that writers sought to defamiliarize the reader using foreign language. The many instances of French language in Lolita suggest this attempt of defamiliarization as the reader might become frustrated with lack of acquired language skill in which case the book becomes distant. This leads us back to French as an emblem of a distancing language. In this sense the reader experience a small sense of exile and unfamiliarity. Modernism is also a time of fragmentation where words are

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