Wylie Agency Adds Nabokov Estate To Its Client List

nabokov061908 Wylie Agency Adds Nabokov Estate To Its Client ListLess than a month after Dmitri Nabokov announced, following years of indecision, that he would publish his late father Vladimir’s unfinished final novel, The Original of Laura, he has hired a new literary agent to represent the Nabokov Estate.

That agent is Andrew Wylie, who is as famous for his expert handling of posthumous work by heavyweights like Saul Bellow, Lionel Trilling and Richard Yates as he is infamous for his tendency to lure high-profile clients away from less powerful agents.

It is unclear whether Nikki Smith of New Jersey-based agency Smith-Skolnik Literary Management, who has repped the Nabokov Estate since 1986, is still involved, or how far she got in the process of finding a publisher for Laura before Mr. Wylie was brought on board.

Unclear also which publishers have already seen the manuscript of Laura—though Knopf, which owns a large portion of Nabokov’s backlist, is among them. The Smith-Skolnik agency fielded several offers for Laura after Nabokov’s son, who is 73, announced his intention to publish it (instead of burning it or locking it in a private archive) back in April. A few of these even offered to buy the book without reading it first.

Reached by phone this afternoon, Ms. Smith said, "We are not answering any questions," and hung up.

The original manuscript of the book takes the form of 138 index cards—Nabokov wrote all of his first drafts on index cards—each of which contains about 150 words of prose. Before his death in 1977, Nabokov instructed his wife and son to destroy the cards because the book was unfinished, and his son publicly grappled with those instructions for about 15 years before finally deciding that his father wouldn’t be so sore if he went ahead and published it.

Nabokov scholar and biographer Brian Boyd told The Observer in April that a collection of unpublished letters, a few plays, and a compilation of interview transcripts and book reviews that Nabokov wrote early in his career for The New York Sun and The New Republic would eventually see the light of day. Presumably—though we can’t say for sure—Mr. Wylie will eventually handle these projects as well.

A book of poems, titled Verses and Versions, will be published by Harcourt-Houghton Mifflin in the fall.

Mr. Wylie could not be immediately reached for comment.