Considering the final result, there does not seem to have been much reason to publish this "book". There is (again) the comparison to Kafka's friend, Brod, and Kafka's request for him to destroy his manuscripts. Kafka did indeed do this, but did so knowing full well that Brod would not do it (Brod had told Kafka this himself on earlier occasions). Kafka used this technique with his infamous Letter To His Father, which his father never read. Kafka gave the letter to his mother to pass on to his father, knowing full well she would never do so.
The Original of Laura
December 9, 2009
While it's hardly a masterpiece, Vladimir Nabokov's unfinished work provides a glimpse into his painful final days.
By Vladimir Nabokov, edited by Dmitri NabokovPenguin, 278pp, $55
DON'T be misled by the size of this sumptuous book. You'll need less than three hours to read it from cover to cover, and even then you'll be reading most of it twice.
In the two years before his death in 1977, Vladimir Nabokov was working on a new novel, sketching bits and pieces, including a few short sections marked as chapters, on ruled index cards, writing (mostly in pencil) on one side of the card only. He had been in poor health, his son Dmitri writes in his introduction, ever since an undignified fall in 1975 while chasing butterflies at the Swiss alpine resort of Davos. He pressed on nevertheless, working on his cards, arranging and shuffling them, deleting some phrases, adding others.
In 1977 his health took a turn for the worse. While undergoing a “banal operation”, he contracted an infection that left him debilitated. He persisted with his cards, however, even during his last days in hospital, where he died after a nurse with a cold (who had also left a window open) gave him a bronchial infection. “Little was said of the exact causes of his malady,” Dmitri Nabokov writes. “The death of the great man was veiled in embarrassed silence.” Some years later, when he “wanted to pin things down” for “biographical purposes”, he was denied all access to his father's medical files.