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Writing about an unlikable protagonist


While talking about writing the other day, someone asked me if it is possible to write an entire book with a central character who is a creep, really unlikeable. My answer, a no-brainer, was yes.
I recommended her Nabokov’s Lolita, where the narrator is a child-molester (surely a character can’t get ‘worse’ than that?). And what a literary masterpiece that is, too.

I, for one, like the narrator’s voice–strong, unmistakable, fascinating:

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita. “

Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her forthcoming literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and will be published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

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