Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Nabokov's THE ORIGINAL OF LAURA: Nabokov's Last Lolita\Nymphet

The Original of Laura
From Publishers Weekly via Amazon:

Before Nabokov's death in 1977, he instructed his wife to burn the unfinished first draft—handwritten on 138 index cards—of what would be his final novel. She did not, and now Nabokov's son, Dmitri, is releasing them to the world [...] It would be a mistake for readers to come to this expecting anything resembling a novel, though the few actual scenes here are unmistakably Nabokovian — a character named Hubert H. Hubert molesting a girl, a decaying old man's strained attempt at perfunctory sex with his younger wife.

The story appears to be about a woman named Flora (spelled, once, as FLaura), who has Lolita-like moments in her childhood and is later the subject of a scandalous novel, Laura, written by a former lover. Mostly, this amounts to a peek inside the author's process and mindset as he neared death. Indeed, mortality, suicide, impotence, a disgust with the male human body — and an appreciation of the fit, young female body—figure prominently.

The "book" was difficult to read, but some of the hebephilia themes were clear. For example, Adam Lind, a photographer and the son of the painter Lev Linde, married Lanskaya, a ballerina. After Adam committed suicide, Lanskaya found an "elderly but still vigorous" lover in Hubert H. Hubert, who was deeply attracted to Flora, Lanskaya's "lovely" 12-year-old daughter.

The nymphet was "[...] alone in the house with Mr. Hubert, who constantly "prowled" around her [...] she did not dare to let her arms hang aimlessly lest her knuckles came into contact with some horrible part of that kindly but smelly and "pushing" old male."

In one scene, while Flora, who was described as having "[...] darker than the dark blue of the iris [...] blondish or rather palomino, and so silky [hair] [...]" was in bed "[...] with a chest cold," Hubert "[...] brought his pet a thoughtful present: a miniature chess set [...]" The game didn't last long. "After a few minutes of play Flora grew tired of it, put a rook in her mouth, ejected it [...] Then, with a father's sudden concern, he said, "I'm afraid you are chilly my love," and plunging a hand under the bedclothes from his vantage point at the footboard, he felt her shins."

But just like in a number of molestation cases, the mother sided with the fiance\boyfriend\husband. Lanskaya "[...] soothed the absolutely furious, deeply insulted Mr Hubert before scolding her daughter," for kicking Hubert "[...] in the crotch."

Hubert never got his wish to be with Flora, but she "[...] was barely fourteen when she lost her virginity to a coeval, a handsome ballboy at the Carlton Courts in Cannes."

By the time Flora was 24, she was "extravagantly slender," had "cup-sized breasts," due to her beauty she "seemed a dozen years younger," and she was in an age-discrepant relationship. She was married to "Philip Wild, a wealthy and grossly fat neurologist."

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