When Vladimir Nabokov passed away in 1977, he was working on a novel working-titled as The Original of Laura. Nabokov gave explicit instructions to his wife Vera that this project should never be published, going so far to demand the manuscript be burned and destroyed forever. Vera wrestled with this the rest of her life, choosing instead to keep the novel locked in Swiss vault; when she passed away in 1991, Laura still remained. Today the BBC has posted an interview with Vladimir’s only child Dmitri, who serves as executor of his father’s literary estate. Back in April, Slate critic Ron Rosenbaum reported that after a great amount of soul-searching (which involved a ghostly visit from Vladimir himself…), Dmitri has given the green light to publish the book. It will hit the shelves sometime next year.
As with most things Nabokov, there’s a healthy and vigorous debate brewing over whether the author’s intentions with the project outweighs said project’s literary and social significance. Nabokov had pulled a similar move earlier in his career with the drafts of Lolita, and it is widely known now that Vera very literally saved that novel from its maker’s cruelties/fireplace. We also know that Vera was absolutely crucial to Vladimir’s writing and publishing career, and while she didn’t go so far as to publish Laura, she did consciously decide to let it remain here on earth with the rest of us. Dmitri has obviously made the decision to bring his father’s manuscript fully into the light, and his doing so raises interesting questions about what truly does/should survive once the author has long since passed on.
I’m very interested to hear what others think about this. Your thoughts?