Lavishly Nabokov

“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 agonized over whether or not to allow it to be published.”  – David Lodge, Literary Review.

This new unfinished book evidently is hitting publication, and undoubtedly will be fascinating.  I love some of Nabokov’s work…and I say “some” for a reason.  Since I’m committed to trying to read a book a week (give or take), I’ve been scouring numerous recommendation lists of famous writer, average people, fellow bloggers, etc.  Francine Prose’s book Reading Like A Writer, which I finishes last week, has a book list of  must-reads in the back–which includes the subject I’m blabbing about:  Nabokov’s  most famous book, Lolita.  Just about every other list I’ve come upon has this book, which must prove its brilliance I assume.

I tried, people, I tried.  I tried to read the damn thing.  His prose is brilliant, to say the least, and I was grasped by the eloquence.  But not matter how I tried to overlook it, no matter how well I surged in and noted the timing and the word choices in the finest of literary sentences, I could not get past the fact that the main character Humbert Humbert is a sexually depraved pedophile who molests an innocent 4 foot 8 inch twelve-year-old and should probably have his dick cut off…and his hands.   Perhaps I lack the literary nature to read this book;  my wit-full intelligence keeps trying not be sick every time I try to read it.  (Perhaps having young teen girls in my house makes me…what?  I don’t really know when it comes to this book.) Or perhaps it’s not me at all, perhaps this book was written at a time when no one else dared enter the mind of someone so narcissistic and depraved, and it fascinated readers…and now the literary elite just leave it on their reading book lists.

As for Vlad’s last book, The Original of Laura, I may have more hope.

Source: Literary Review, Shored Against His Ruins  by David Lodge


4 Responses to “Lavishly Nabokov”

  1. Lisa Chapman Says:

    I too have tried to read this one before and failed – I just had a tough time staying with it. A dark book.

    I LOVE the new look of the site Jenn!



  2. Jennifer Rains Says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one…and thanks for new look compliment. Needed a change, once again. Feels good!


  3. Sarcastic Bastard Says:

    I think it’s terrible that his family is planning to publish the damn book (obviously for financial reasons) when he expressly asked them not to.


  4. Jennifer Rains Says:

    Good point SB. What money does to people…but perhaps they are going with the thought that his wife rescued Lolita from the garbage, that this measure should apply to Nabokov’s latest as well ( however, without his final approval? that would make it wrong.) …It sounds as if the novel in incomplete anyway. Anything they would do to rectify that would be a travesty to his work, I feel.


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