Next month Nabokov's last novel will be published - despite the fact that he never wanted it to see the light of day.
In October 1976, asked to nominate three books he had recently been reading, Nabokov chose a new translation of Dante's Inferno, an illustrated guide to North American butterflies and a book of his own, "the not-quite-finished manuscript of a novel". He had recently been ill, and, in his delirium, kept reading the novel aloud to a small dream audience consisting 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".
On 17 November 2009, that novel, The Original of Laura, will reach a less hallucinatory audience, when it's published for the first time. Nabokov never finished it, and on his deathbed asked his wife Vera to destroy it. She didn't do so; nor after her death did her son, Dmitri. A stern keeper of the paternal flame, Dmitri is no opportunist. But after 30 years and much agonizing, he has retrieved the book from a Swiss vault for worldwide publication, on the grounds that Nabokov thought it one of his three most important works and would not have wanted it "to burn like a latter-day Jeanne d'Arc".
- Blake Morrison, Guardian.co.uk
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