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To destroy or publish?Nabokov's last work


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#16 Drew

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 06:54 PM

In theory I feel as Papeetepatrick does but the Max Brod/Kafka example always keeps me from being altogether comfortable with my own position.

There is also a fantasy of authorial control (not necessarily the author's fantasy--it can be the reader's) that wills and posthumous instructions--and the debates about them--seem to elicit. It is a fantasy. Nabakov can't protect his published works from being read or adapted in ways that may distort his intentions at least as badly as the publication of an unfinished fragment.

But if I were a great writer's literary executor I imagine I would feel obligated to follow her instructions (and obey the law).

#17 dirac

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Posted 25 February 2008 - 07:11 PM

There is also a fantasy of authorial control (not necessarily the author's fantasy--it can be the reader's) that wills and posthumous instructions--and the debates about them--seem to elicit. It is a fantasy. Nabakov can't protect his published works from being read or adapted in ways that may distort his intentions at least as badly as the publication of an unfinished fragment.


Quite so. I suppose the difference is that when he was still around, his work was published as he wanted it done. No, he hadn’t much control over the way his work was interpreted, although he did like to put in puzzles and red herrings to play Confuse-A-Critic -- but it was out there in the form he chose.

Good to hear from you, Drew.

#18 dirac

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 02:11 PM

An update from Ron Rosenbaum. Evidently the manuscript has already been shown around a bit, so Nabokov's wishes have already been violated to a degree.

Regarding the e-mail, maybe Dmitri just forgot about the Caps Lock key....

However, there are apparently two people besides Dmitri who have read the whole of the Laura manuscript. The first is Brian Boyd, Nabokov scholar and biographer. He obtained permission to read the manuscript with a promise not to disclose anything about it, and on the Australian literary talk show he declined to say anything about its content—although he did say he had great respect for its literary inventiveness—because he felt that, in getting specific, he would, in effect, be violating V.N.'s deathbed dictum.

The second civilian to claim to have laid eyes on Laura is a professor at the University of Strasbourg named Lara (!) Delage-Toriel, who says she was granted the privilege by Dmitri Nabokov.



#19 dirac

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Posted 25 April 2008 - 05:01 PM

Dmitri makes up his mind, with the aid of a visit from the Beyond.

From his winter home in Palm Beach, Dmitri justified his decision by saying, "I'm a loyal son and thought long and seriously about it, then my father appeared before me and said, with an ironic grin, 'You're stuck in a right old mess - just go ahead and publish!'"



#20 sidwich

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Posted 06 May 2008 - 02:20 PM

The executor must act, however. It looks to me as though these papers will make it to public domain, if Dimitri hasn't acted to date.


If Dmitri owns the only physical copy (which is what it appears), there is no legal necessity to act. Ownership of physical property (the manuscript) is entirely separate from ownership of the copyright (or lack thereof, i.e. public domain-dom). Even if the copyright falls into public domain, as long as Dmitri owns the only physical copy there is no reason that the family can't keep the manuscript safely in the Swiss vault indefinitely.

However, if Dmitri plans to sell the exclusive rights to publish Laura, he must do so before the copyright falls into public domain. Otherwise, those rights are worthless.

#21 dirac

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Posted 03 June 2008 - 06:49 PM

A belated thank-you for the comment, sidwich. Coming to a bookstore near you. If anyone reads it assuming it does get published, please report back in this space.

#22 dirac

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Posted 08 July 2009 - 02:12 PM

"Laura" will be excerpted in Playboy.

For years, Nabokov’s son Dmitri indicated that, per his father’s dying wishes, Laura would never see the light of day. Then last spring he had a change of heart and entrusted the super-agent Andrew Wylie to find a publisher. Knopf secured the rights for an undisclosed sum, and a publication date was set for this coming fall. When Amy Grace Loyd, Playboy’s literary editor since 2005, heard the news, she began an intense courtship process. “I did it with orchids, mostly,” Ms. Loyd said.



#23 carbro

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 02:48 PM

For better or worse, the book is now out.

On his Monday show, Leonard Lopate interviewed Nabokov's biographer and the man who designed TOoL's unique format.

Vladimir Nabokov’s biographer Brian Boyd and graphic designer Chip Kidd, describe turning Nabokov’s 138 hand-written index cards for his last, unfinished novel into book form. That book, The Original of Laura, has now been published, 30 years after it was written.



#24 dirac

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Posted 16 November 2009 - 04:43 PM

Thanks for the update, carbro. I wonder how close this book is to being an 'unfinished novel' as opposed to a series of fragments. Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon was published by Edmund Wilson as an 'unfinished novel' but it really doesn't qualify - it's the first few chapters of something that was plainly going to undergo a great deal of revision and had a long way to go before completion.


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