Yuri Leving (Ed.), The Shades of Laura. Vladimir Nabokov’s Last Novel, The Original of Laura, Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013.

Understanding Nabokov’s oeuvre through a detailed look at the posthumous publication of his unrealized novel.

Shortly before Vladimir Nabokov died in 1977, he left instructions that the draft for his last novel, The Original of Laura, be destroyed. But in 2008 Dmitri Nabokov, the writer’s only child and sole surviving heir, contravened his father’s wishes. Formed from novelistic fragments that had been hidden from the public eye for three decades, The Original of Laura is a construction based on the conjecture of the Nabokov estate, publishers, and scholars.

Shades of Laura returns to the « scene of the crime, » elucidating the process of publishing Nabokov’s unfinished novel from its conception – the reproduction of 138 handwritten index cards – to the simultaneous publication of translations of the final text in several languages. The essays in this collection investigate the event of publication and reconstitute the book’s critical reception, reproducing a selection of some of the most salient reviews. Critics condemned Dmitri’s choice, but as contributors to this volume attest, there are many more « shades » and « nuances » to his decision. The book also endeavours to allow readers to understand and evaluate an incomplete novel; contributors analyze its plot, structure, imagery, and motifs.

Published after prolonged public debate, Vladimir Nabokov’s The Original of Laura was dubbed « the most eagerly awaited literary novel of this fledgling century. » Covering the publication from a broad spectrum of perspectives, this collection reassesses the Nabokov canon and the roots of his literary prestige.
Contributors include Paul Ardoin (Florida State University), Gennady Barabtarlo (University of Missouri), Brian Boyd (University of Auckland), Marijeta Bozovic (Colgate University), Maurice Couturier (University of Nice), Lara Delage-Toriel (Strasbourg University), Galya Diment (University of Washington), Leland de la Durantaye (Claremont McKenna College), Michael Juliar (Private collector), Eric Naiman (University of California, Berkeley), Ellen Pifer (University of Delaware), Anna Raffetto (Adelphi Publishing House, Milan), Michael Rodgers (University of Strathclyde), Rien Verhoef (Leiden University), Olga Voronina (Bard College), Tadashi Wakashima (Kyoto University), Michael Wood (Princeton University), and Barbara Wyllie (Slavonic and East European Review).


Shades of Laura: Vladimir Nabokov’s Last Novel “The Original of Laura.” Ed. Yuri Leving. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2013. xii, 307 pp.