Feature

Novel of the week: The Original of Laura (Dying Is Fun) by Vladimir Nabokov

<em>The Original of Laura</em> is Nabokov&rsquo;s final project, which he had asked his wife to burn if he failed to finish it. He never finished it, she never burned it, and the Nabokov&rsquo;s son has finally released it f

(Knopf, $35)

Your first dip into this unfinished novel is likely to produce “a certain squeamishness,” said Alexander Theroux in The Wall Street Journal. Shortly before his death, in 1977, the great Vladimir Nabokov instructed his wife to incinerate his final project if he failed to finish it. She didn’t, and Nabokov’s son finally chose to publish the 138 index cards upon which the story was sketched. Here and there among this book’s pages, “a perfectly cut Nabokovian gem sparkles,” said Aleksandar Hemon in Slate.com. But we’re barely able to discern that the plot features a morbidly obese intellectual who is fading fast while his younger wife carries on with a novelist who has immortalized her in a book. Only people “titillated by the sight” of a genius past his prime will enjoy The Original of Laura. But that’s just it, said Jeff Simon in The Buffalo News. This book is not a novel but “an astonishingly accurate representation of a genius’ shards.” And, “my God, what shards these are.”

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