Always up for a good Top Ten list, this one by Henry Sutton at the Guardian caught my eye:

Top 10 Unreliable Narrators: From Huck Finn to Holden Caulfield and Humbert Humbert, the novelist provides an entirely trustworthy guide to some of literature’s slipperiest characters.

I feel that the idea of the unreliable narrator is a good one to contemplate mainly because numero uno on the list is Humbert Humbert from Nabokov’s Lolita, which, distressingly, is probably one of the books I’ve most often seen misinterpreted and misread, all because of it’s narrator’s unreliability-

It seems a lot of people were never introduced to the concept of an unreliable narrator, and therefore take Humbert at face-value.  Sadly for women everywhere who are sick of dirty old men, this means that people often take his descriptions of little Lolita as some hussy who wanted it as an accurate portrayal, unfortunately disregarding the fact that she is a child, and obviously a victim, and Humbert himself is totally sick.

This misreading is so prevalent in fact that a “Lolita” in common parlance certainly does not refer to a young victim of a nasty pedophile, but rather a young seductress. Surely Nabokov is spinning over that one, right?

Anywho – did a little surfing and found this vid (via boingboing) of an interview of Nabokov discussing Lolita.

Interesting discussion. Also interesting to see the way the interviewer is trying to see the book as autobiographical, he can’t seem to understand the idea of an unreliable narrator either. Also odd – to describe it as a “love story.” Listen to how the other interviewee (who I think is Lionel Trilling) talks about this as a tender and compassionate love. Wha? Apparently, Nabokovs wife once commented on this saying “She cries every night and the critics are deaf to her sobs.” And they are deaf because Humbert is deaf, and people can’t see past his slanted telling of his own tale.

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