Nabokov's Last Work: Burn It?

Writers debate last request of Russian-American novelist
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2008 10:43 AM CST
Vladimir Nabokov, who demanded his last manuscript be burned, with his son and the executor of his will, Dmitri.   (Magnum Photos)
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(Newser) – His works include Lolita and Pale Fire, but Vladimir Nabokov's greatest masterpiece might be an unfinished manuscript languishing in a Swiss safe deposit box. Nabokov demanded that The Original of Laura be burned after his death, but his heir has vacillated. Now that Dmitri Nabokov is hinting he might go ahead and destroy the work, the Times of London invited two authors to weigh in on its fate.

John Banville, the Booker Prize-winning Irish novelist, insists that The Original of Laura must be saved, since "a great writer is always worth reading, even at his worst"; Kafka wanted all his works burned, too. The playwright Tom Stoppard disagrees: if Nabokov wanted the manuscript burned, then we must do as he says and not be cowed by the "mostly self-serving speculation on the part of the Nabokov industry."