Controversy surrounds the publication of Nabokov's last, unfinished work
The Original of Laura
by Vladimir Nabokov
$35.00 List Price
Aptly, we may begin with the title. The dust jacket has it as The Original of Laura: A novel in fragments, while the title page varies this to The Original of Laura (Dying Is Fun). However, the author himself, at the top of the first of the 138 file cards on which the novel—let us call it a novel, for now—is composed, calls the book merely The Original of Laura. The subtitle A novel in fragments is easily accepted as an editor's addendum, since the book is published posthumously, but where did (Dying Is Fun) come from? Nabokov biographer Brian Boyd tells us that The Original of Laura: Dying Is Fun was "a first tentative title" that Nabokov noted in his diary in December 1974, three years before his death. Dying Is Fun has an appropriately jaunty, Nabokovian ring to it, but did the author himself, or his son, decide that it should be part of the finished title? The book comes to us out of a nebulous region, and any clear glimpse through the mist would be welcome.
That Nabokov left behind an incomplete novel has been known since his death in a Swiss hospital in 1977; known, too, his instruction to his wife, Véra Nabokov—that if he died before finishing the book the draft was to be destroyed. His directive was disobeyed, as such directives frequently are—one thinks of Virgil and the Aeneid and, of course, of Kafka and Max Brod. The latter precedent is specifically evoked by Dmitri Nabokov in his introduction to The Original of Laura. Brod, according to Nabokov fils, never had any intention of destroying Kafka's work, and Kafka knew it; Vladimir Nabokov "exercised similar
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