Vladimir Nabokov, “The Original Laura” (1977, 2009)

vladimir-nabokov-the-original-laura-1977-2009“In the late fall of 1976, the year before he died, The New York Times Book Review asked Vladimir Nabokov (along with a number of other writers, including John Dean) what he’d been reading lately. He reported that while in a Lausanne hospital that summer, he’d read Dante’s ‘Inferno,’ William H. Howe’s ‘Butterflies of North America’ and ‘The Original of Laura,’ ‘the not quite finished manuscript of a novel which I had begun writing and reworking before my illness and which was completed in my mind.’ In his delirium, he continued, he ‘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. Perhaps because of my stumblings and fits of coughing the story of my poor Laura had less success with my listeners than it will have, I hope, with intelligent reviewers when properly published.’ I can take a hint: who’d want to pan Nabokov and end up among the ‘mediocrities’ on his enemies list, to which he might still be adding over on the other side?” [. . .]    –David Gates, The New York Times, November 11, 2009