Playboy to Excerpt New Nabokov Novel

Adrian Versteegh

Another reason to buy it for the articles: Playboy has scored the first serial rights to an unfinished novel by Vladimir Nabokov. The magazine’s December issue will feature a five-thousand-word excerpt from The Original of Laura, which was left in fragmentary form when the author died in 1977. Although Nabokov left instructions for his unpublished work to be destroyed, the novel sat in a Swiss bank vault for three decades before being entrusted last spring to agent Andrew Wylie.

The Playboy acquisition was apparently the product of some determined wooing on the part of Amy Grace Loyd, the magazine’s literary editor. Loyd told the New York Observer that she signaled her interest in the work by bombarding Wylie’s office with orchids—a winking reference to Nabokov’s novel Ada, which Playboy serialized in 1969. “It was part of my pitch to Andrew that Nabokov really liked publishing with Playboy, and how devoted Hef is to Nabokov and his legacy,” she said.

Loyd’s advances eventually paid off and a deal was inked in late June. But new work from the Lolita author didn’t come cheaply. Loyd told the Observer that Playboy had “never paid this much for a book excerpt before, ever,” and that a special dispensation had been granted by Hefner himself.

According to excerpts printed last August in the German weekly Die Zeit, The Original of Laura is narrated by a death-obsessed scholar unhappily married to a woman who reminds him of a former flame. The novel—written on 138 index cards—will be published by Knopf in the U.S. and Penguin Classics in the U.K. The December issue of Playboy will hit newsstands on November 10, about a week before the hardcover is shipped to stores.