Thoughts after reading 'pervert-literature'

or so they call it. Yes. I’ve just finished Marquis de Sade’s ‘Justine’ and Vladimir Nabokov’s ‘Lolita’, both falling into this category – pervert-literature – made up by the ignorant and blind. (Read more about the respective authors; here (de Sade) and here (Nabokov), from Wikipedia.) Now that I’ve offended 50% of the readers I can go on about my business, which is telling you about these masterpieces in world literature. It must be pointed out, allthough both ‘pervert’, there’s no link between these two books, except for me happening to read them simultaneously (along with the earlier mentioned Kafka novel, which I also had some opinions about).

Beginning with the first thing first; I opened de Sade’s book long before finding Lolita at my doorstep. Marquis de Sade (1740-1814) was a french aristocrat and great thinker, but known for his more individualistic individualities. Yes, he didn’t get the word sadism named after him for nothing, something Justine also indicates, but to what degree can we really say this has got anything to do with the matter (or book) at hand? Nothing, in fact. This book is about the tragic reality and how society’s conventions are doing but wrong for those following them, leaving us with some kind of contradiction, or Truth. This book is about the freedom of all human beings, and it is with great awe I admit now, before you all, that this alleged "pornographic" author is really one of the West’s great minds. Yes, those are big words, but justification(?) awaits.

We meet young Justine, who’s suffered from her parents dying and her sister leaving her to be successful in the world – something you cannot do without breaking the conventions mentioned earlier and of course God commandements – something Justine refuses to do. During the whole book, in fact, she’s true to her Lord and honest to the society, which necessarily – yes, necessarily, keeps her on the lowest step of society’s ladder in constant danger and despair. Not only do doctors and sons of aristocrats suffer from the pen of the author as they take advantage of young Justine, but also priests and munks, because we all have one thing in common; being human. I am not going to reveal the whole story, I can only promise you some interesting situations written down with the most realistic perspective to the world (taking into account that de Sade was an aristocrat). He fills page after page with screaming irony, but also concrete critics and thoughts on society, religion and social life as a whole. To take away that question blurring your eyesight; yes, there is erotic scenes too, and they’re actually used quite cunningly by the author to underline his thoughts. A classic masterpiece which was, to my own amazement, written in just a few days. De Sade has been said to be inhuman, sadistic (!) and perverted, and this may all be right, but claiming that this book is those things, is not only completely wrong, but also utterly unintelligent. De Sade’s gets his message through; you cannot be anything but human. Ad hoc I’d just like to add that none of the ‘erotic’ or ‘sadistic’ scenes were printed on the paper per se, a contrast to our modern times when pervertions fly across our television screens on an hourly basis; they are all created and neatly put together by the reader’s mind. De Sade has just pointed out the direction…

Over to something completely different.

Vladimir Nabokov was a totally unheard name for me, before I picked up this book at Tronsmo bookstore (said, by Neil Gaiman, to be the "coolest bookstore in the world"). I’d seen the two films based on the book, mind you, and it was because of the inaccuracies and differences between them that I had decided to give Nabokov a call. So, firmly placed at the inner, most sacred, depths of my couch, I begun reading this controversial novel. We’re soon placed at the heart of the matter, as the maincharacter (mr. Humbert-Humbert an old-school European) tells us about his fascination, obsession and passion for what he refers to as nymphs; young, flirting girls appealing to him, aged 9-14 specifically. In the first pages of the book, we – being the jury of a trial, are also confronted with a lovestory young Humbert-Humbert had when he was 11 years old or so, which, psychoanalytically, should explain his later abnormalities. Then begins the story of this man’s quest to conquest young Lolita, an American nymph appealing to him in all sorts of ways, described in detail.

I’m quite early taken abash by the cunning – I’ve realized I’m using that word pretty much today – and most accurate humourous little twists and turns the author has spread evenly across this masterpiece. Just to mention a brief example I had the wits to note down as I read, from the very first three chapters or so; "I could list a great number of these one-sided diminutive romances. Some of them ended in a rich flavor of hell." If you don’t have a sense for self-ironic setbacks while reading forward, this book is not for you.

This (by me,) alleged masterpiece is not only a (very) black comedy, however, but also a great, tragic lovestory of epic degrees. When reading some of my other notes captured by my fumbling hands as I read, I’m even more convinced this being true. This is what I wrote down the very second after I’d read the last sentence: I’ve just finished Nabokov’s Lolita. What can I say? Love, love, love, one-sided love. This is a great, Greek Tragedy written by a French-inspired Russian in America. Marvelous! Wonderful! Beautiful! I am without words, yet one is forever stuck to my mind after reading this book. Love (, Lolita), love!

I’m also glad, even relieved, that the story was far from as perverse people had told me that it was. In fact, as the author states himself in a ‘defence’ of his work, the f-word isn’t even mentioned one, single time during the two houndred page romance! Pretty fucking impressive, if you ask me! In addition, it is more of an esthetic novel than anything else, and I wholeheartedly agree with [one of the big, American newspaper]’s judgement: "The only true lovestory of our century". Of course the book was accused of encouraging pedophiles and people commiting incestous crimes, but can we blame the author (or the book) for such actions? How many of us have run around on killing-sprees after reading Sherlock Holmes or begun inviting friends for dinner after reading Hannibal? (Point: those who actually did, can only blame themselves.)

In conclusion
I’ve read two very different books by two very different authors whom both have been named ‘perverts’ and illiterates by the fact that they’ve touched matters society told them to leave alone. I respect them not for their rebellion alone, we are all rebels in our petty ways, I respect them for writing true-to-reality, esthetic stories without being concerned about anything but the story itself, thus creating timeless, beautiful literature. Much obliged.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts after reading 'pervert-literature'

  1. Actually, your interest in the two novels is not the only connection:
    Speaking of the sexual acts that Quilty wants Lo to perform for the camera, Humbert recounts parenthetically, “Sade’s Justine was exactly twelve at the start” (p.276, Vintage edition). Quilty is sometimes compared to the Marquis’ characters in his absolute depravity as opposed to Humbert, who we we are left with some empathy for.

  2. Thanks for this information, yet I do not agree. As Marquis had bisexual pedophile tendencies, the Quilty I remember from the books is merely “lending out” Lo in order to please his male visitors whom he have greater fondness of. Let’s not forget that he admits being impotent. It’s an interesting byline, though. Thanks:)

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