NABOKV-L post 0018199, Mon, 20 Apr 2009 18:44:56 -0400

Pub date a nnounced f or publica tion of Na bokov’s no tes ...

Pub date announced for publication of Nabokov’s notes

20 April 2009

The 138 index cards that comprise Vladimir Nabokov's The Original of Laura

A publication date for Vladimir Nabokov’s unfinished novel The Original of Laura has finally been announced: according to a Bookseller report by Benedicte Page, Penguin UK will publish it in the UK, and Knopf in the US, simultaneously on November 3.

The report gives the details of the British deal: Penguin closed a six-figure deal negotiated by agent Andrew Wylie that will also see Penguin reprinting the etnire Nabokov backlist. But the report doesn’t detail the American deal — it doesn’t say, for example, whether Knopf bought US rights from Penguin or the Nabokov estate in a similar, multi-title deal.

Nor does the report explain how an unfinished book that isn’t realy a book — isn’t even a manuscript, it’s actually what would in a more honest world be called scholarly matter: 138 index cards of notes — justifies a whopping $35 cover price here, while Penguin’s goes for £24.07. (Time to think like a publisher: Hmmm … one card per page, facing page of descriptive hoo-haw … wide margins … other photos ((author, writing)) … lengthy introduction AND a preface, maybe a foreword too … lots of back matter — oh yes, and hard covers …..)

As detailed in a previous MobyLives story, Nabokov himself felt strongly the material was not publishable and left explicit orders to burn it if he died before finishing. However, more than three decades after Nabokov’s death in 1977, his son, Dmitri Nabokov, was persuaded to break those orders by a persuasive team from Penguin–the Bookseller doesn’t indicate whether Knopf was involved–and, of course, that stalwart champion of mother literature, Andrew Wylie.

The Penguin editor over-seeing the project, Alexis Kirschbaum, explained to The Bookseller why Penguin’s publication of the notes against the author’s wishes — let alone their presentation of it as a book — is legit: “I’m an avid, obsessed fan of Nabokov and for other fans it’s incredibly interesting to see his handwriting and read his prose—not necessarily extremely polished, but you can still see kernels of genius in everything he wrote.”

Except for that list of instructions he left behind, it seems.

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