NABOKV-L post 0018952, Sat, 12 Dec 2009 20:20:58 -0200

SIGHTING: TLS review of TOoL
James Twiggs sends the link to The Times Literary Supplement, December 4, 2009: "The burning question."
Was Vladimir Nabokov's family right to publish his last, unfinished manuscript?
by Stephen Abell*

JM: Related to "fragments", there's an interesting confession by soon-to-be widowed Humbug, Herbert, Hubert, Humbert after Charlotte Haze pries open a drawer and reads his diary:
"It is all your hallucination. You are crazy, Charlotte. The notes you found were fragments of a novel. Your name and hers were put in by mere chance. Just because they came handy. Think it over. I shall bring you a drink."

TOoL's Hubert is much older than Humbert; he is also smelly and repulsive, although he'd been first presented as a "charmer".
Apparently VN also hadn't decided about "doublings" or "treblings". Flora reminds HHH of his little daughter Daisy whereas her mother reminds him of his first wife.

Then we find Wild's own reminiscences leading us from Flora to Aurora Lee. And there's Flora as Flaura, or Laura. In other words, in the endless game of substitutions and mirrors, there is no original to be found. Inspite of Nabokov's dismissal of Freud he is, in TOoL, closely following the "Viennese quack"'s steps. Freud wrote that there is no original "love object" that is later "lost" (except the mother's breast, related to a baby's primordial "experience of satisfaction"), although "the finding of the object is in fact a refinding" [Freud, S., "Three essays on the theory of sexuality" (1905,p. 222)].

In the line of S.Abell's indication about a "final postmodern gesture," it seems that TOoL also re-enacts mankind's chief and unsolvable predicament (S.Freud's theory) in our unending aspiration to find a soul-mate and "encounter a (fantasized,non-existing) love object" , ie, to retrieve at last the "original Laura" ( the novel's young girl and Nabokov's - lost - novel about her).

* Excerpts: "Books are made to be read, not destroyed. And the work of epochal artists should be preserved and made public. The burning question is not, in the end, much of a burning question. However, it is important to make clear what has survived here: The Original of Laura is not, as Dmitri Nabokov puts it in his introduction, necessarily an "embryonic masterpiece". It is not really, as the subtitle suggests, "a novel in fragments". It is an assembly of fragments of a novel, notes towards a final text that was clearly some years away from completion. It contains moments of expected brilliance, amid plenty of humdrum early drafting [...] Flora's life is connected, via a postmodern subplot (imperfectly realized at the stage Nabokov left it), to a novel called "My Laura", and we are asked to consider "identifying her with an unwritten, half-written, rewritten difficult book"...The reader might ignore this metafictional mingling because the most striking thing about Flora is how much she reminds us of Lolita: there is plenty of Lo in this "Flo"
[...] In this context, the author's wish for his book to be itself destroyed seems thematically fitting, a final postmodern gesture, the natural conclusion to his examination of the desire for obliteration. Nabokov once said, thinking of Robert Louis Stevenson, that "sometimes the destinies of authors follow the destinies of their books". His final work, now that we have seen it, casts a typically ironic light on this. Ironic or not, it remains a matter of unmixed delight that The Original of Laura has survived its author's intentions, and the unforgiving fire. A book (even imperfect and unfinished) by Vladimir Nabokov should, of course, be preserved and made public.

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