When a writer starts to come off the rails, you expect skid marks and broken glass. With Nabokov, naturally, the eruption is on the scale of a nuclear accident. – Martin Amis, of The Guardian, writing about Vladimir Nabokov’s later literary works


In March of 2008, David M. Smith posted a blog documenting the decades-long Sisyphean struggle of Dmitri Nabokov, son and sole surviving heir of Vladimir Nabokov, with his father’s deathbed wish to have his last unpublished work, The Original of Laura, destroyed. By all accounts, Nabokov was an odd duck; he wrote Lolita in the backseat of a ’46 Oldsmobile and instead of paper, he preferred to write on index cards. When Nabokov died, Laura was less than one-half complete, and the fragments had been scrawled in pencil on 138 index cards, in no particular order, which he instructed his wife to destroy.  However, his wife died in 1991 having not yet carried out her husband’s last wish. After 30 years of ‘agonized dithering’, Dmitri finally made the decision to publish The Original of Laura. A 5,000 word first glimpse appeared in Playboy last month. [Apparently Nabokov Sr. was a fan of the mag’s cartoons.]

Book reviewers everywhere have cast their judgment on the work, and more importantly, on the ethics of Laura’s ultimate publication. Alexander Theroux of The Wall Street Journal referred to Laura as ‘ever more hallucinatory’. Novelist Aleksander Hemon, writing in Slate likened the unfinished work to the ‘musty air of an estate sale’ in that it was brought out ‘’in the hope that there might appear a buyer for these sad objects’. Michael Dirda of the Washington Post concludes, like many others, that Laura is for Nabokov ‘completists’ only.

Will Laura grace your wish list this year?

Jennifer Hartman, Guest Blogger