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The Original of Laura

The Original of Laura

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Add This - The Original of Laura

Written by Vladimir NabokovAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Vladimir Nabokov
Preface by Dmitri NabokovAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Dmitri Nabokov

  • Format: Hardcover, 304 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • On Sale: November 17, 2009
  • Price: $35.00
  • ISBN: 978-0-307-27189-1 (0-307-27189-7)
Also available as an eBook and a trade paperback.
about this book

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.

“The writing hits awaited heights . . . It contains moments of expected brilliance . . . It remains a matter of unmixed delight that The Original of Laura has survived its author’s intentions, and the unforgiving fire.”
—Stephen Abell, Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“Treasurable, tantalising . . . Nabokov has a great gift for making us care about the unloved characters in his novels . . . We have no way of knowing how the texts would finally have meshed, or what they would have added up to. We are on firm ground with the opening chapters, though, which strike me as quite remarkable.” —Michael Wood, London Review of Books

“There are enough [moments] to show that The Original of Laura in its finished form would have been full of those flashes of Nabokovian signature that are still, to his fans, such a pure pleasure. The other component of his work at its best, the stranger, sadder, subtler music of style, is present also . . . The finished book would have been really something.”
—John Lanchester, New York Review of Books

“An unprecedented view into Nabokov’s working mind . . . The opening chapter [is] awesome . . . [There are] heartbreakingly vivid sections . . . The Original of Laura sincerely adds to his legacy and attests to a true genius whom only death could stop from creating.” —David Wiley, Rain Taxi

"For readers who are devoted to Nabokov (I’m one), The Original of Laura affords its own ecstasies. It comes at you as a reprieve, a final appearance from an old friend you thought was already gone for good . . . The Original of Laura is a beautiful ruin, like the Venus de Milo . . . You admire what you can see, and you dream about what might have been.”
—Lev Grossman, Time

“Nabokov fans and scholars have reason to thank Dmitri for publishing this invaluable glimpse into the way his brilliant father worked . . . Its publication feels like a generous gift to readers . . . Although Nabokov’s last novel is especially intriguing to its devotees, readers whose familiarity with Nabokov’s work is limited to his most famous novel, Lolita, will also find plenty of interest . . . The book is filled with sly wit and memorable images . . . The presentation of the material [is] dazzlingly clever . . . Tantalizing, fascinating.”—Heller McAlpin, Christian Science Monitor

“Nabokov wrote these manuscript fragments in his final years, yet he never loses his trademark ear for wordplay or graceful rhythms . . . Nabokov’s wit has proved to be immortal . . . For readers greedy for one last literary adventure with the genius, this book is a remarkable final chance. A chance few die-hard Nabokov lovers would dare miss.”—Andrea Hoag, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Magnificently packaged [and] a fast read . . . The sentences are polished to a Nabokovian luster . . . These ghostly notes can only add a few more inches to his pedestal.”—Craig Seligman, Bloomberg News

“For centuries, I predict, scholars of narrative will focus on the opening chapter of The Original of Laura as proof of the new finds to be made in fiction . . . The opening shows Nabokov at the peak of his powers . . . Readers will be teased and tantalized by the other strands of story. Some will be fascinated by peeks into the workshop of genius and by playing at a puzzle with pieces missing. And everyone who buys the book will love Chip Kidd’s design . . . Better published than I could have imagined.”
—Brian Boyd, Financial Times

“Nabokov observed that if you want to know whether a piece of writing is any good, you should wait for ‘the telltale tingle between the shoulder-blades.’ Laura is packed with these moments, although tingling is too gentle a sensation to capture what happens when one of Nabokov’s phrases really strikes home. It is more like being hit by a dum-dum bullet. His phrases enter through the eyes and expand in the mind.”
—Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, Spectator

“A fascinating read on many levels . . . An exquisite thing . . . Laura offers just enough of the familiar Nabokovian pleasure to be enjoyable as a straightforward read: style, invention, humor, occasional sprays of archaic vocabulary. But its deepest pleasure is the one Nabokov wanted us never to have: a peek at the imperfect, ordering intelligence behind all of his finished products . . . It’s like seeing an unfinished Michelangelo sculpture–one of those rough, half-formed giants straining to step out of its marble block. It’s even more powerful, to a different part of the brain, than the polish of a David or a Lolita. It humanizes the perfection.”
—Sam Anderson, New York

“The book is deeply interesting, not so much for what it thinks itself to be as for what we know it is: a master’s final work . . . This edition is a triumph of the book maker’s art, and the design is masterly.”
—John Banville, BookForum

“It’s the literary story of 2009 . . . This is no ordinary manuscript . . . The Original of Laura is an astonishingly accurate representation of a genius’ shards. But, my God, what shards these are. What devotee of Nabokov, much less mere reader, could possibly regret Dmitri Nabokov’s decision to give us this gift? . . . What we have is a novelistic genius’s fever dream–one of the great literary talents of his century aswirl with ideas and last thoughts . . . Where Vera and Dmitri’s rescue from oblivion becomes an act of salvation is in preserving this one last virtuoso piece by a writer who had been ‘trilingual’ his entire life . . . Here is a great literary genius’s final unfinished phantasmagoria presented—against his express wishes—with a son’s knowledge of how very much the current literary world needs it.”
—Jeff Simon, Buffalo News

“The cards [have] marginal notes and tantalizing, meticulously crossed out phrases, on which the master plotted another intricate tale of seduction (pouty, indifferent girl, corpulent aging sensualist), artistry and loss.”
—Cathleen Medwick, O magazine

“Was Dmitri right to publish The Original of Laura: (Dying Is Fun)? Do the index cards (reproduced with meticulous care by the publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, in an ingenious punch-out format) represent, as Dmitri has said, ‘the most concentrated distillation’ of his father’s creativity? Does this fragmentary manuscript constitute the makings of ‘a brilliant, original and potentially radical book’? . . . 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 . . . In these pages readers will find 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 . . . Most hauntingly, given the circumstances of its composition, Laura explores the subjects of death and the otherworldly with contemplative urgency.”—Michiko Kakutani, New York Times

“A peek inside the author’s process and mindset as he neared death . . . Knopf is publishing the book in an intriguing form . . . An amazing document.” —Publishers Weekly

The Original of Laura is a tale of love and lust; to read what exists of the novel is to have a sense of having come into the middle of something–the reader gathering from the cards . . . a renewed appreciation of Nabokov’s trademark lush language. All public and academic librarians should be aware of this literary event.” —Brad Hooper, Booklist

“The legendarily meticulous Nabokov spent a couple of fertile decades filling index cards with careful paragraphs, which he then revised and shuffled into complete novels. When he died he left one last batch, a partial draft . . . A unique chance to see the perfectionist in imperfection.”
New York

“A glimpse into the mind of a great writer. As a bonus, we get the languid atmosphere, the honed language, and that Nabokovian sense that sex and death are linked as self-obsession . . . It’s astonishing to get this last bit of light from Nabokov.” —Library Journal (starred)