Sunday, November 15, 2009
In the fall of 1976, a newspaper contacted Vladimir Nabokov in his Swiss refuge and asked him which books he had recently read. He responded with three typical titles: Dante's "Inferno" (in Charles Singleton's deliciously literal translation), a big, fat book about butterflies and his own work-in-progress, "The Original of Laura."You can read the rest here. To judge from this handy roundup in the paper's Jacket Copy blog, most critics seem to share my disappointment. Aleksander Hemon, who reviewed the book in Slate, went one step further, characterizing the very publication of the TOOL as a barrel-scraping betrayal of its author: "It is safe to say that what is published as the novel titled The Original of Laura (Dying Is Fun) is not a result Nabokov desired or would welcome.... [The book] can't escape the musty air of an estate sale: The trinkets that piled up in the attic; the damp books from the basement; the old man's stained cravat; the lonely figurines that used to be part of a cherished set; the mismatched, overworn clothing -- all are brought out in the hope that there might appear a buyer for those sad objects, someone blinded by literary nostalgia and willing to rescue the family possessions from the waste basket."
The latter project had preoccupied him over the summer, despite a serious illness. It was, he told his correspondent, "completed in my mind." The revisions went on while he was confined to a hospital bed, a febrile process he describes in some detail in his "Selected Letters": "I must have gone through it some fifty times and in my diurnal delirium kept reading it aloud to a small dream audience in a walled garden. My audience consisted of peacocks, pigeons, my long dead parents, two cypresses, several young nurses crouching around, and a family doctor so old as to be almost invisible."
That he did not want it published bothers some of us; so too Kafka wanted his work destroyed.
Nice job on your part and that got me to Judegment Day, which I did enjoy too.
ps - my word verification is lordski. Oh, Lordski.
Lovely piece of writing btw :)