When Vladimir Nabokov died in 1977, he left instructions for his heirs to burn the 138 handwritten index cards that made up the rough draft of his final and unfinished novel, The Original of Laura. But Nabokov’s wife, Vera, could not bear to destroy her husband’s last work, and when she died, the fate of the manuscript fell to her son. Dmitri Nabokov, now seventy-five—the Russian novelist’s only surviving heir, and translator of many of his books—has wrestled for three decades with the decision of whether to honor his father’s wish or preserve for posterity the last piece of writing of one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century. His decision finally to allow publication of the fragmented narrative—dark yet playful, preoccupied with mortality—affords us one last experience of Nabokov’s magnificent creativity, the quintessence of his unparalleled body of work.
Photos of the handwritten index cards accompany the text. They are perforated and can be removed and rearranged, as the author likely did when he was writing the novel.
In many respects, the release of a rudimentary version of [Nabokov's] last novel does a disservice to a writer who deeply cherished precision and was practiced in the art of revision…Yet, at the same time, these bits and pieces of Laura will beckon and beguile Nabokov fans, who will find many of the author's perennial themes and obsessions percolating through the story…bright flashes of Nabokovian wordplay…and surreal, Magritte-like descriptions…They will also find some small, walk-on parts that read like parodic self-portraits