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When Vladimir Nabokov died in 1977, he left instructions for his heirs to burn the 138 handwritten index cards that made up the rough draft of his final and unfinished novel, The Original of Laura. But Nabokov’s wife, Vera, could not bear to destroy her husband’s last work, and when she died, the fate of the manuscript fell to her son. Dmitri Nabokov, now seventy-five--the Russian novelist’s only surviving heir, and translator of many of his books--has wrestled for three decades with the decision of whether to honor his father’s wish or preserve for posterity the last piece of writing of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. His decision finally to allow publication of the fragmented narrative--dark yet playful, preoccupied with mortality--affords us one last experience of Nabokov’s magnificent creativity, the quintessence of his unparalleled body of work.
Photos of the handwritten index cards accompany the text. They are perforated and can be removed and rearranged, as the author likely did when he was writing the novel.
Look Inside The Original of Laura
(Click on Images to enlarge)
|The Original of Laura (Inside Spread)||The Original of Laura (Open)|
Before Nabokov's death in 1977, he instructed his wife to burn the unfinished first draft—handwritten on 138 index cards—of what would be his final novel. She did not, and now Nabokov's son, Dmitri, is releasing them to the world, though after reading the book, readers will wonder if the Lolita author is laughing or turning over in his grave.This very unfinished work reads largely like an outline, full of seeming notes-to-self, references to source material, sentence fragments, commentary and brief flashes of spectacular prose. It would be a mistake for readers to come to this expecting anything resembling a novel, though the few actual scenes here are unmistakably Nabokovian, with cutting wordplay, piercing description and uneasy-making situations—a character named Hubert H. Hubert molesting a girl, a decaying old man's strained attempt at perfunctory sex with his younger wife. The story appears to be about a woman named Flora (spelled, once, as FLaura), who has Lolita-like moments in her childhood and is later the subject of a scandalous novel, Laura, written by a former lover. Mostly, this amounts to a peek inside the author's process and mindset as he neared death. Indeed, mortality, suicide, impotence, a disgust with the male human body—and an appreciation of the fit, young female body—figure prominently. Nabokov's handwritten index cards are reproduced with a transcription below of each card's contents, generally less than a paragraph. The scanned index cards (perforated so that they can be removed from the book) are what make this book an amazing document; they reveal Nabokov's neat handwriting and his own edits to the text: some lines are blacked out with scribbles, others simply crossed out. Words are inserted, typesetting notes and copyedit symbols pepper the writing, and the reverse of many cards bears a wobbly X. Depending on the reader's eye, the final card is either haunting or the great writer's final sly wink: it's a list of synonyms for efface—expunge, erase, delete, rub out, wipe out and, finally, obliterate. (Nov.)
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As Nabokov requested, the flashcards he wrote his initial ideas on for this book should have been destroyed. Read morePublished 6 months ago by Chris Hartgerink
Somewhat disjointed and rough. The theme never came out and seemed to end with no conclusions. It is important that it was published, but only from a curious viewpoint. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Jack Oliphant
great book will allways remind me of reihanna jones the laura in my dreams!!!Published 11 months ago by John Chapman
I had been waiting for the ebook edition for a long long time. By all means it's worth it! Now I can read it easily and preserve the hardcover edition on my book shelf -- that's... Read morePublished on February 18, 2013 by Noah Fang
I rather rated the experience of reading this book than the book itself. Took me one evening, and it was fantastic to be in the guts and throes of another author, and such a great... Read morePublished on October 15, 2012 by Ksenia Anske
I can understand the debate and handwringing that have resulted from the publication of this "novel". I also applaud Mr. Dimitri Nabokov for making this publicly available. Read morePublished on April 22, 2012 by ctakim
Nabokov's last unfinished work is about the unfinishedness of art, about the supremacy of art as aesthetic bliss, "that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other... Read morePublished on April 18, 2012 by a re-re-reader
After reading several books by Mr. Nabokov, I was very excited to receive and read this book. As with his other novels, the wording and phrasing of the story is beautiful, though... Read morePublished on December 11, 2010 by Hannah