The Original of Laura

Aleksandar Hemon has a great piece over at Slate about why Vladimir Nabokov’s new “novel” The Original of Laura should never have become a book. He sees it as exploitation by the publishers, publicists and marketing folks. In case you’re not familiar with this controversy, the manuscript existed on 138 notecards at the time of Nabokov’s death in 1977, and he asked his wife to destroy the manuscript as he lay on his deathbed (but she couldn’t do it, and it sat in a Swiss vault for 30 years). Personally, I don’t think releasing an unfinished novel by  a literary master like Nabokov is  a move made with artistic integrity; it’s about money. I’m glad to see someone like Hemon agrees with me. Here’s an excerpt from his piece in Slate:

Nabokov was not merely unequivocal in his desire that his notecards be destroyed. He was also adamantly clear in his views on excavating unfinished manuscripts and the drafts preceding final, published versions—as well as on the absolute value of a finished work of art. In the introduction to his translation of Eugene Onegin, he wrote: “An artist should ruthlessly destroy his manuscripts after publication, lest they mislead academic mediocrities into thinking that it is possible to unravel the mysteries of genius by studying cancelled readings. In art, purpose and plan are nothing; only the results count.”

It is safe to say that what is published as the novel titled The Original of Laura (Dying Is Fun) is not a result Nabokov desired or would welcome. Not only does it go against his expressed wishes, it goes against his very aesthetic sensibility, against his entire life as an artist. Too sick to destroy the notecards that contain The Original of Laura, the master is now eternally exposed to a gloating, greedy world of academics, publishers, and all the other card-shuffling mediocrities titillated by the sight of a helpless genius. It is unlikely that dying was that much fun, but it is certain that reading The Original of Laura is crushingly sad.

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~ by Valerie Palmer on November 18, 2009.

One Response to “The Original of Laura”

  1. Terrible. They should never have published this book.

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