By January 30, 2008 0 Comments Read More →

The Nabokov Exception

Also in the Guardian‘s theblogbooks, Kathryn Hughes considers Dmitri Nabokov’s dilemma:

However, there’s something about the way in which Vladimir Nabokov and his son Dimitri have conducted themselves over this business that makes me think that none of these normal considerations apply. Nabokov père was the most extraordinary trickster, playing games not just with language but with readerly expectation and desire. How typical of him then to leave behind this little mystery, designed to get the whole of the literary establishment in a tizz.

Common sense suggests that, if he had really wanted The Original of Laura not to be seen, he would have taken care to have it destroyed before his death (the logistics might be tricky, but surely once he started feeling really queasy he could have put in a call to Switzerland and asked the bank to burn the 50 index cards on which his novel was jotted?) The fact that Nabokov allowed Laura to live on in any form suggests to me that, at some level, he wanted it read.

And then there’s the peculiar attitude of Nabokov’s son Dimitri. For the past 30 years apparently he’s been dropping tantalising hints about the quality of ‘Laura while sounding like he was only five minutes away from taking a match to it. If you ask me, it sounds like he loves the attention.

Her conclusion? An author’s wishes should be respected–unless the author is Vladimir Nabokov. She thinks the whole thing is a “practical joke from beyond the grave.”

Why not let the joke go on into eternity? Burn it!



About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

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