Having kept the literary world in a state of suspense for years over whether he was prepared to carry out his long-standing threat to burn his father’s last novel, Dmitri Nabokov has finally announced that he is prepared to save it from destruction.
Vladimir Nabokov’s The Original of Laura will now not be thrown onto the flames, the 73-year-old has told Der Spiegel magazine, arguing that his father, the creator of Lolita and Pale Fire who died in 1977, would not want his son to suffer any more over his most tortuous dilemma.
Pallet after pallet of mid-1980s Houghton-Mifflin textbooks, still unwrapped in their original packaging, seem more telling of our failures than any vacant edifice. The floor is littered with flash cards, workbooks, art paper, pencils, scissors, maps, deflated footballs and frozen tennis balls, reel-to-reel tapes. Almost anything you can think of used in the education of a child during the 1980s is there, much of it charred or rotted beyond recognition.
Here is your chance to weigh in on one of the most troubling dilemmas in contemporary literary culture. I know I’m hopelessly conflicted about it. It’s the question of whether the last unpublished work of Vladimir Nabokov, which is now reposing unread in a Swiss bank vault, should be destroyed—as Nabokov explicitly requested before he died.It’s a decision that has fallen to his sole surviving heir (and translator), Dmitri Nabokov, now 73. Dmitri has been torn for years between his father’s unequivocal request and the demands of the literary world to view the final fragment of his father’s genius, a manuscript known as The Original of Laura. Should Dmitri defy his father’s wishes for the sake of “posterity”?