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Monday, May 5, 2008

Fathers and Sons

posted by on May 5 at 9:50 AM

It will happen…

Dmitri Nabokov, the son of the greatest novelist in the English language, Vladimir Nabokov, will publish the novel his father did not want the world to read, The Original of Laura.

In an NYT interview, Dmitri defends his betrayal with this reasoning:

It’s been three decades since your father’s death. Why did it take you so long to decide the fate of “Laura”, and how did you come to your final decision? How difficult has it been?

In the words of one blogger, 30 years is tantamount to eternity in the given context, which would absolve me from any disobedience of my father’s wishes. More seriously, it did not take me 30 years to come to a decision with regard to burning the manuscript. I had never imagined myself as a “literary arsonist.” I also recalled, parenthetically, that when my father was asked, not very long before his death, what three books he considered indispensable, he named them in climactic order, concluding with “The Original of Laura” — could he have ever seriously contemplated its destruction?

Dmitri Nabokov is soon to reach the age of his father’s death, 78.

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Yawn. It's not a literary event, it's an exhumation. Nabokov's reputation will not be affected one way or the other by this unfinished ephemeron. I certainly won't buy the thing, and I have everything.

Posted by Fnarf | May 5, 2008 10:03 AM

I'd like to imagine that Vladimir and Dmitri posed for the illustration that accompanies this post.

Posted by mattymatt | May 5, 2008 10:11 AM

BETRAYAL? put down the hyperbole.

dead people's wishes mean nothing.

Posted by max solomon | May 5, 2008 10:51 AM

It will probably sell as well as Kerouac's original "On The Road" manuscript (before editing). Meaning not much. This is just big news for the litterati.

Posted by elswinger | May 5, 2008 11:32 AM

Mudede, light of my life, fire of my loin. My sin, my soul. Moo-Dee-Dee.

Posted by michael strangeways | May 5, 2008 11:34 AM

In surprising news, not everyone thinks Nabokov was the greatest novelist in the English language.

Besides, what if "The Original of Laura" does have original, boundary pushing fictional devices, as the biographer is quoted as saying in the article? Would you deny the literary world such a work of genius?

And, will you refuse to read it?

Posted by PopTart | May 5, 2008 11:59 AM

It's not a "work of genius" because it's NOT FINISHED. The fantabulous devices of which you speak are of interest only to the Nabokov scholar.

Posted by Fnarf | May 5, 2008 12:32 PM

yeah, really charles--"betrayal"! what a drama king you are. you cannot betray the dead, just as funerals are not for them--how could they be?-- but for the survivors. and his argument defending his decision sounds logical enough. so, he should have burned it? like kafka's friend should have burned everything HE wrote? grow up.

Posted by ellarosa | May 5, 2008 12:56 PM

Vergil wanted the Aeneid destroyed, too. Authorial fetishism is so tiring.

Posted by Ryno | May 5, 2008 2:57 PM

I tend to agree. And maybe there's reason to suspect his motivations—money? attention?—but it seems the son would have the best sense of his father's real intent behind his dying wishes. Also, the scholar mentioned in the article did come to the conclusion that there is value in publishing the work—and the article did give the impression that the particular scholar only came to that conclusion only after some thought.
I'm torn a little. I hate to say you disregard a man's wishes for his last work, but there is also the argument that an author's work exists separate of him/her once it has been written. You wouldn't necessarily listen to an author regarding how to interpret the work. Do you need to listen to them regarding whether to publish? Who/what do we offend by publishing it? Our own feeling of honoring of Nabokov's memory? I think we can still adequately honor him ... and maybe learn a little bit more about him.

Posted by Jessica Knapp | May 5, 2008 4:44 PM
and maybe learn a little bit more about him
Oof, that's a very un-Nabokovian point of view. VN vociferously denied that you could learn anything about anything from works of fiction -- certainly not the author's life or times.
Posted by Fnarf | May 5, 2008 4:52 PM

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