Penguin Classics has signed a deal to published Vladimir Nabokov’s last unfinished novel, The Original of Laura, later this year. Nabokov’s son and sole heir, Dimitri, recently signed the deal with Penguin after many decades of alluding to the fate of the novel. Nabokov had instructed any unfinished work to be burned after his death in 1977, and his wife and son had put off making a decision about the novel for many years. Dimitri, now 74, brokered the deal with Penguin as part of their plan to republish Nabokov’s entire backlist of work. The Original of Laura is comprised of 138 hand-written index cards, which Penguin will publish in their entirety.

The Original of Laura is said to be similar to Lolita, Mary, and Ada – another story of trying to recapture young love. It might be interesting to see the raw kernels of Nabokov’s writing published in his own words, and I’m glad they decided to maintain the form of his notes, rather than trying to posthumously edit the bits of a manuscript into a full novel. The recent announcement that David Foster Wallace’s The Pale King will be pieced together and published rubbed me the wrong way, for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on. I’m not as bothered by this decision about The Original of Laura, though. Perhaps because Nabokov’s family has clearly taken many, many years to give this careful thought before coming to a decision? It just seems right to publish it in index-card format, rather than manipulating it into something it’s not. Thoughts?

Lolita novelist Vladimir Nabokov’s last work to be published – Telegraph.
Salon Books | Dmitri Nabokov on his father’s unfinished novel (1999).
Nabokov Novel to Be Published, Against Dying Wish : NPR (2008).

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