Saturday, January 4, 2014

Tarun Tejpal's ponytail

Friends of mine who choose to describe Tarun Tejpal's case as a Lolita moment are either careless readers of Nabakov's classic or suckers for the photogenic collage of his image with a black ponytail and a white beard.

Lolita moment is there in the novel where Humbert Humbert hears children's voices and recognizes the harm he has brought to Dolores Haze and Nabokov writes this memorable passage " I (Humbert Humbert) stood listening to that musical vibration from my lofty slope, to those flashes of separate cries  with a kind of demure murmur for background, and then I knew that the hopelessly poignant thing was not Lolita's absence from my side, but the absence of her voice from that concord." To read a writer describing the world with such specificity about the loss of laughter , to learn that his words go beyond being mere words, and to learn that they teach you about pity and shame as well as beauty, liveliness and compassion are really, what I would call, Lolita moments. Mind you, it was consensual in the novel. Tarun Tejpal's masochist apology to lacerate himself and to do penance could have achieved the Nabokovian subtlety had he chosen healing words of compassion; without them the apology stayed on, like his pony tail, a misplaced epithet.

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