David Lodge

Shored Against His Ruins

The Original of Laura: A Novel in Fragments

By

Penguin Classics 278pp £25 order from our bookshop

In 1962, following the international success of Lolita that made him financially independent, Vladimir Nabokov gave up his professorial post at Cornell and settled in Montreux, Switzerland, where he resided at the Palace hotel with his wife Vera and wrote his later novels, until his death in 1977. In the last two years of his life, which were marred by various accidents, illnesses and increasing physical debility, Nabokov worked on a novel called The Original of Laura, writing it, as was his habit, by hand in pencil on small index cards. It was unfinished – very far from finished in fact – when he died, and he had expressly directed Vera to burn the manuscript in that eventuality. Having rescued Lolita from the incinerator many years before, when Nabokov had a sudden failure of nerve about publishing it, his widow understandably hesitated to carry out his wishes with respect to his last work. The Original of Laura has lain in a bank vault for thirty years, the object of intense curiosity and speculation among aficionados, while Vera and the Nabokovs’ son Dmitri agonised over whether or not to allow it to be published. They finally decided to do so, and here it is.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • The mystery of Jack the Ripper's identity has long been agonised over. But what do we know about his victims?… ,
    • A piece of Literary Review history from way back in 1983: John Haffenden talks to the great Iris Murdoch. ,
    • Britain’s only travelling lit fest, the Garden Museum Literary Festival is heading to Houghton Hall, Norfolk, for a… ,
    • 'The 19th-century German sage is not my idea of a pleasant travel companion' goes hiking with Friedr… ,
    • If you want ideas about what to read next, sign up to our free email newsletter, and get book reviews, archive mate… ,
    • 'The heroic male nude could not, I think, be used today to signify civic pride and glory', as Michelangelo’s 'David… ,
    • 'Munch’s later works show us a man liberated from the torments that gave rise to some of the best-known early works… ,