Vladimir Nabokov, reduced to notes

Michael Dirda in the Washington Post:

PH2009111803788 Should this book have been published? Certainly all the work of a great writer like Vladimir Nabokov ought to be available to scholars and interested readers. To my mind, Dmitri Nabokov was clearly right to ignore his dying father's request that he destroy these fragments of an unfinished novel. But that doesn't mean “The Original of Laura” actually deserves the attention of anyone but the most rabid Nabokov fanatic. Apart from a few enchanting phrases — “the orange awnings of southern summers” — there's just not much here.

But first a little background.

When Nabokov (1899-1977) died in Switzerland at the age of 78, he left behind an extraordinary artistic legacy. During the first half of his life, he produced a series of important novels in his native Russian, including at least one masterpiece, “The Gift.” He was, arguably, the leading writer among those Russians who, having fled the Bolshevik Revolution, were then living in exile in Germany and France. But when Hitler's forces began to overwhelm Europe, Nabokov, his wife, Vera, and their little son, Dmitri, fled to the United States. Here the writer found teaching jobs, most notably at Cornell University, while he began to create — in English — technically dazzling and deeply moving books, among them “The Real Life of Sebastian Knight,” “Pnin” and the exquisite memoir “Speak, Memory.”

More here.