The secret of Nabokov's sexual style
Lolita was a taboo-breaker, but Nabokov always denied it was pornographic. David Lodge on how poetry and humour come together in his writing about sex
Saturday 7 June 2014 08.30 BST
riting well about sexual intercourse is not easy, and it has got more, not less, difficult as virtually all legal restraint on the explicit description of sexual acts in literature ceased in most western democracies from the 1960s onwards. Censorship in the past was often oppressive and silly, but it also presented a stimulating challenge to writers, to which they responded by finding subtle ways to convey their meaning indirectly, or more courageously by gradually testing and extending the limits of socially acceptable explicitness. There are a limited number of possible sexual acts. Now that the novelist is expected to describe them, how does s(he) achieve originality? How to avoid revealing, or appearing to reveal, his/her own sexual predilections and fantasies?