So now we have Vladimir Nabokov’s posthumous opus, The Original of Laura, with two subtitles, “(Dying Is Fun)” and “A novel in fragments,” neither chosen by the author.[1] It is the book Nabokov was working on, some of it in the hospital, during his last time on earth. As was his habit, he wrote on 3 x 5 inch index cards, reaching 138, and corresponding to, as has been estimated, forty-five pages of print. Otherwise put, nowhere near a finished novel.

Nabokov had asked his wife, Vera, to burn the cards if he did not get to finish the novel, but, we read, “her failure to perform was rooted in procrastination—procrastination due to age, weakness, and immeasurable love.” In his introduction, Nabokov’s son, Dmitri, invokes comparisons to Coleridge and Kafka that do not hold. Even in its unfinished state, what...


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