Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Original of Laura by Vladimir Nabokov

My review of the Nabokov's unfinished novel in the Toronto Star.

A taste:

If there is one word, one theme, that runs through all of Vladimir Nabokov's work, it isn't "beauty" or "sublimity" or "bliss" or any of the other possible candidates that might be offered up by his most ardent admirers (and almost all of his admirers are ardent).

Rather, the one word is "control." His fiction was supremely, proudly inorganic, every inch of it hostile to the idea of the happy accident or the free-willed character.

"Even the dream I describe to my wife across the breakfast table is only a first draft," he wrote in the foreword to Strong Opinions, a 1973 collection of his letters, occasional prose and interviews.

With an artist who is so defined by his own sense of control, there is a strong postmodern urge to get a look behind it, to catch the master in his underwear and find the vulnerable, beating heart beneath the aesthetic arrogance. The Original of Laura seems the perfect opportunity to sample that most improbable item: raw Nabokov. The novel – more a series of scenes, sketches and notes toward a possible novel or novella – was a work in progress at the time of the author's death in 1977.

Read the whole thing here, if'n you like.

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