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Playboy Magazine Publishes Nabokov Final Unpublished Work

abstract:Postumous publishing of a well known author's works is a debatable predicament. Do you heed the author's dying wishes to burn his final unpublished manuscripts, or do you allow the world a chance to peek? Is publishing motivated by material gain on the part of the family member and the publisher, or are they generously allowing readers, writers and academics the opportunity to scrutinize the work for posterity? That debate raged for three decades while Demitri Nabokov, son of Vladimir Nabokov finally wrestled his demons and agreed to publish. And we are now coming up on the anniversary of that decision. If you missed the news before, here is a recap.

It was November 10, 2009 when Playboy magazine published the serialization of Nabokov's final, unfinished work, The Original of Laura. Playboy had a long relationship with Nabokov, previously published a portion of his 1969 work Ada and ran an interview with the author before his death in 1977. On November 17, Knopf released the book version of The Original of Laura.

Before Nabokov's death in 1977, he instructed his wife to burn the unfinished first draft—handwritten on 138 index cards—of what would be his final novel. As sole executor of his literary rights, she could not, and instead placed the manuscript in a Swiss vault. Nabokov's son, Dmitri, was given sole literary executor rights at his mother's death, and indecision over whether to publish it wracked his life for over three decades.

Hailed as last year's literary highlight, the Guardian wrote: "this very unfinished work reads largely like an outline, full of seeming notes-to-self, references to source material, sentence fragments, commentary and brief flashes of spectacular prose. It would be a mistake for readers to come to this expecting anything resembling a novel, though the few actual scenes here 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.

The story appears to be about a woman named Flora...


November 06, 2010
— (spelled, once, as FLaura), who has Lolita-like moments in her childhood and is later the subject of a scandalous novel, Laura, written by a former lover.

Mostly, this amounts to a peek inside the author's process and mindset as he neared death. Indeed, mortality, suicide, impotence, a disgust with the male human body—and an appreciation of the fit, young female body—figure prominently. 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 that they can be removed from the book) are what make this book an amazing document; they reveal Nabokov's neat handwriting and his own edits to the text: some lines are blacked out with scribbles, others simply crossed out. Words are inserted, typesetting notes 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 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."—Publishers Weekly Guardian's Perspective on this topic.



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