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.
The work has been lavishly and reverently designed and produced. Every index card is photographically reproduced in the top half of the recto page, white on a pale grey background, with a printed transcription underneath. On every verso page there is the reproduction of another, blank, index card,