Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fragments of Laura

Remember all the hoo-ha about Nabokov wanting the manuscript of his half completed last novel burned and then his son finally deciding to publish it? Now The Original of Laura is to be published worldwide on November 17, and an excerpt is up at The Times.

And what's the verdict on the novel? Publisher's Weekly gets in the first review and notes that :
This very unfinished work reads largely like an outline, full of seeming notes-to-self, references to source material, self-critique, sentence fragments and commentary (“The whole scene was pretty artificial in a fishy theatrical way”). It would be a mistake, in other words, for readers to come to this expecting anything resembling a novel, though the few actual scenes wedged between the notes are unmistakably Nabokovian, with cutting wordplay, piercing description and uneasy-making situations—a character named Hubert H. Hubert molesting a girl, a decaying old man’s strained attempt at perfunctory sex with his younger wife.
It looks then as if it will be of great interest to fans of Nabokov's work, and to scholars, although perhaps not to the general reading public.

Of particular interest is the way Knopf is publishing the book :
... Nabokov’s handwritten index cards are reproduced with a transcription below of each card’s contents, generally less than a paragraph. The scanned index cards (perforated so they can be removed from the book) are what make this book an amazing document; they reveal Nabokov’s neat handwriting (a mix of cursive and print) and his own edits to the text: some lines are blacked out with scribbles, others simply crossed out. Words are inserted, typesetting notes (“no quotes”) and copyedit symbols pepper the writing, and the reverse of many cards bears a wobbly X. Depending on the reader’s eye, the final card in the book is either haunting or the great writer’s final sly wink: it’s a list of synonyms for “efface”—expunge, erase, delete, rub out, wipe out and, finally, obliterate.


Chet said...

The link to the excerpt at Times does not work. A search on that site with the key words "Nabokov the original of Laura" also turned up an error page. Maybe the page has been taken down.

bibliobibuli said...

thanks Chet. the second link is ok now. maybe the site was down.