Her husband, she answered, was a writer, too – at least, after a fashion. …

…. Oh no, it was not a work of fiction which one dashes off , you know, to make money;  it was a mad neurologist’s testament, a kind of Poisonous Opus as in that film. …

The above are excerpts from card 1 & 2 of Vladimir Nabokov’s The Original of Laura.  I shall post my quick and dirty GR review below, but opened with these curious lines because they made me immediately infer that Nabokov was being very meta in his approach. One wonders if ‘that film’ was the ‘meta’ Fellini film, “81/2″. Nabokov, as Fellini did in his film, considers the success and failure of the work that is now being viewed.  Unfortunately, Nabokov’s ill health does not have time to complete these fragments, leaving us to wonder if this could have been his final “Lolita”.

(I shall stop here and post my brief  Goodreads review…)

When I spied this on the shelf at the used book shop (looking for Pale Fire) I couldn’t resist. Not knowing its back story (still in its wrapper), I took it home, read GR comments, and then let it sit for months until today. Hours later, the fragments linger as one imagines what might have been the final story. One thing that turns over in my mind is the curious inside ‘subtitle’ (found on the inside and outside of the bound book), and the title page…”Dying Is Fun”. Indeed, there are several fragments that talk of suicide, death, and self mutilation…yet, the feel is not dark. Nabokov seemed to be delving into memory, perhaps piecing together his story in the face of mortality.

The brilliance of this book is that one could take it apart and play conceptual artist. Each page is a copy of the actual index card, which has been perforated for easy removal. It seems odd in the beginning since there is a flow from one card to the next. After a while, though, the story breaks down and there are several character sketches and ruminations of storyline. These fragments lead us into a couple of different streams of thought giving it a surreal feel (or, perhaps that is just my take as it is my penchant). It would certainly be interesting to see what someone would do with the “Wild” cards or the “D” cards.

As for the ethical dilemma – this being published posthumously by Nabokov’s son despite the expressed wishes that this unfinished novel be burned – meh, Emily Dickinson and Kafka requested the same…what a shame had their wishes been honored. Is that a bad attitude? Seriously, to be able to read these cards to get a glimpse at the creative mind is a gift for readers and writers.

The Original of Laura

A book for the Nabokov fan, or for those of us who enjoy books whose form becomes a piece of art. ~

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1 Comment

  1. That title caught me for a surprise. Thank you for sharing!!


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