Son Will Publish, Not Destroy, Nabokov's Unfinished Novel

by Staff

Vladimir Nabokov's son, Dmitri, recently announced that he will publish his father's unfinished novel, titled "The Original of Laura," ending a years-long debate over whether he would carry out his father's order to destroy the book. "I'm a loyal son and thought long and seriously about it," Dmitri told Der Spiegel, the German news magazine. "Then my father appeared before me and said, with an ironic grin, 'You're stuck in a right old mess—just go ahead and publish!'"

Before his death in 1977, the author asked his wife, Vera, to destroy the manuscript, written on fifty notecards stored in a safe deposit box in Switzerland. After his mother's death in 1991, Dmitri, now seventy-three, became responsible for the book's destruction. He has described the work as his "father's most brilliant novel, the most concentrated distillation of his creativity."

The only time the work has been made public was at a reading in the early nineties at Cornell, where Dmitri presented excerpts to a gathering of Nabokov scholars. One of the attendees, Zoran Kuzmanovich, reported that the book was about “aging but holding onto the original love of one’s life.”

In 2005, the New York Observer published an essay by literary critic Ron Rosenbaum asking Dmitri to save the book from destruction—or, at least, to make a decision on the matter—which he echoed this January in the online magazine Slate, imploring readers to let their opinions on the issue be known. Ultimately, Dmitri told Der Spiegel, the "conversation" with his father "persuaded him against assuming the role of literary arsonist."