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The Original of Laura Hardcover – Bargain Price, November 17, 2009

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, November 17, 2009
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Book Description
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.

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The Original of Laura (Inside Spread) The Original of Laura (Open)

From Publishers Weekly

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (November 17, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307271897
  • ASIN: B00C2HD1IW
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.7 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,486,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was born on April 23, 1899, in St. Petersburg, Russia. The Nabokov household was trilingual, and as a young man, he studied Slavic and romance languages at Trinity College, Cambridge, taking his honors degree in 1922. For the next eighteen years he lived in Berlin and Paris, writing prolifically in Russian under the pseudonym Sirin and supporting himself through translations, lessons in English and tennis, and by composing the first crossword puzzles in Russian. In 1925 he married Vera Slonim, with whom he had one child, a son, Dmitri. Having already fled Russia and Germany, Nabokov became a refugee once more in 1940, when he was forced to leave France for the United States. There he taught at Wellesley, Harvard, and Cornell. He also gave up writing in Russian and began composing ficticvbn ral books of criticism. Vladimir Nabokov died in Montreux, Switzerland, in 1977.

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Customer Reviews

Now I can read it easily and preserve the hardcover edition on my book shelf -- that's just great.
Noah Fang
Despite the abundance of riches contained in this manuscript, it ultimately lacks the precision and the holistic grandeur that completes a great Nabokov novel.
The Cultural Observer
It took less than 30 minutes to read, and it was a mediocre, rudimentary sketch of a novel idea, nothing more.
M. Ingram

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Martin Monreal on November 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So: Flora is married to a much older man. She's not satisfied. She has lovers galore. One of them has written a novel, "My Laura," in which he tells everything about her. A copy ends up in the hands of her husband, who is now dedicated to think himself out of existence--literally. That's the story. Only, it is not really there. You can guess it as you can feel the ghostly presence of future Nabokovian corrections (elimination of redundancies, substitution of common verbs for more striking ones, a vast cast of secondary characters, etc.). But in truth "The Original of Laura" is not a novel. It is something less and something more than that.

It is less because, unlike the case of Kafka's and Virgil's masterpieces, this is truly unfinished --that is, unfinished beyond any possible reconstruction-- and will forever remain so. In Flora's description we can find the following premonitory remarks: "Her exquisite bone structure immediately slipped into a novel -- became in fact the secret structure of that novel." That is exactly what we have: not a novel but its bones.

If you are not already a "Nabokovian," or if you simply want to "read a novel" during your morning trip to work, I suggest that you pick any other text by the master.

At the same time it is something more because it allows us to take a sneaky look at the creative process as Nabokov understood it --or as it was laid upon him by the Muse, Chance, McFate (remember the list in Lolita?) or whomever you choose. As most of his readers know he wrote his books on little index cards, not in the order of the finished story, but rather like a puzzle--today a piece here, tomorrow a piece there.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Andrew on November 22, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In the opening image of "The Original of Laura," a husband smashes a paperweight on the hand of his nymphomaniac wife as she rumages through his desk. The brutality is not payback for her affairs, but a warding off of her perceived attempt to snoop into his unfinished "poisonous opus." (In fact, she was searching for a piece of junk mail.)

Are we, the morbid readers of a work which the author never finished and, as the legend goes, gave instructions to destroy on his death bed, the ones who really deserve the bruised knuckles? Many who shell out full price for this thick hardcover which contains less than four thousand words will no doubt feel a certain stinging feeling. The decision to publish photographic images of Naboakov's original index cards side-by-side with a typeset version has its charm. But why the need to devote whole pages to their blank backs? I am not complaining, I am just not sure if this is a clue, a joke or a cheap con to get the volume up to fighting weight for the New Hardback racks.

The novel is about a fat, aging professor who copes with death by turning it into a sexual game and who copes with his wife's serial infidelities by writing a humiliating novel about her. As a side project, the professor is deconstucting, "The Interpretation of Dreams." We get plot and character in fragments. Yet the story has tremendous emotional heft. These are disturbed and, at times, ugly people. But we care about them despite ourselves, despite them and despite the fact that the novel is barely a first draft. Less is more, and, with a writer as miraculous as Nabakov, almost nothing is more than less.

The story behind the book's journey to print overshadows the actual story in the book, which itself is a unique literary achievement.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By J. Edgar Mihelic on November 24, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have a whole shelf of Nabokov books in my home. I fell in love with the man's writings after reading the author's introduction to _Pale Fire_. I have thrilled over lines in his books and his short stories, lamented that he isn't studied in the academy as often as he should, and lent out his works.

But this most recent book, which I preordered and waited for with bated breath was not up to the standards of his most mediocre work. The production of the text is interesting to see as an academic curiosity, but I vastly overpaid for that privilege. There's about 30 pages of text here if it were broken down and no story. What happened was the seeds of a story were taken and turned into a middling post-modern novel. I respect what his literary executors were trying to do for fans and scholars, but I feel that Vladamir's wishes were honored on this occasion.

I have to say though that I am generally not against the publication of posthumous fiction. I have thrilled lately at the remnants of Kurt Vonnegut's life works. I have enjoyed _A Happy Death_, a novel found amongst the wreckage of Camus's life. I also puzzled over a collection of uncompleted speeches by Calvino. But what those texts had was completeness. _The Original of Laura_ lacks this completeness. However, as a fan of the man's works, I do still feel fortunate to have this last contact.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Andreas Ramos on November 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover
My copy arrived yesterday and I read it in a single sitting. I've read absolutely nothing in advance of this, so I read it without anyone else's footprints in my path.

The title itself, "The Original of Laura", tells you this will be different. What does that mean, "the original of Laura"? That's a broken sentence. The origins of Laura?

Pull off the book's cover and wordplay begins. Hidden under the cover is a list of words for efface, erase, delete... and the list contains a deleted phrase. Words and reality intertwined. You've not yet begun to read, and already the book is mirroring itself.

Printed on card stock, Vladimir's index cards are photographically reproduced as punch-out cards; you can remove the cards and create your copy of Vladimir's index cards, just as he held them in his hands. This book isn't a book, it's the reproduction of the original (index cards) of Laura.

Dimitri Nabokov has created a puzzle worthy of his father. If you admire Nabokov's work, get this book. (Psst. I also recommend Danielewski's "House of Leaves".)
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