Nabokov’s Laura to be published 2009…and but so?

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?

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4 responses to “Nabokov’s Laura to be published 2009…and but so?

  • lena

    I’ve been waiting for this book for years. He gave a couple of interviews a couple months ago confirming that it would indeed be published. My heart started to race at the thought. While I understand that Nabokov’s perfectionist self couldn’t publish anything but the absolute best, I still think that the world wants more of him. I want more of him. Even if it isn’t done. Even if he wanted it burned. I’m glad Dmitri has decided to go ahead and do it, finally.

    I’m eagerly waiting.

  • Lee

    The Slate article interested me too . . . one’s reminded that Kafka asked his buddy to burn all of his works at his deathbed; request denied. Last wishes mean nothing. I for one could do without Kafka, if the man wanted it that way. Giant cockroach–Soviet-era –I get it. Gogol burned at least one draft and volume two of Dead Souls. The Pre-Digital era of fiction is notable in that entire works can just disappear. Sad, in a Library-of-Alexandria way. But bracingly final in a way with which 21st century authors may not even be familiar.

    I say put a stop to that mumping ghoul kid’s defilement of his great father’s last wishes. Nabokov one of the greatest American novelists ever (NB my word choice; he wrote in english). I just finished Laughter in the Dark. And let me tell you, junior: I’m not laughing.

  • shawn

    In a similar thread- there is a lovely exhibition of rare letterpress books at the Mutlnomah County library right now. I asked the curator about a Rossetti book of sonnets in the collection. He confirmed that they were some of poems he had written to his wife Lizzie Siddal and had buried with her when she o.d. from laudanum. (though not the originals) As Rossetti got on in years he became obsessed with the work (or saw a profit in it) and petitioned to have her exhumed. He had his friend William Morris print the work which coincided with his affair with Jane Morris’ wife. It’s a lot of twisted backstory, but it makes the poems infinitely more interesting… if you get a moment, check it out- they are gorgeous to look at too

  • the lid

    the author is the author.

    the book is the book.

    the product is the product.

    the reader is the reader.

    nuff said.

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