Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Should Nabokov's Last Work Be Burned?

That is the question.
As things stand, there's a chance we may never know. What we do know is that the Laura manuscript consists of approximately 50 index cards covered in V.N.'s handwriting. Dmitri has said in the past that the text amounts to some 30 conventional manuscript pages. (To those familiar with what is perhaps Nabokov's greatest work, Pale Fire, the use of index cards as a draft medium will not seem strange. Indeed the parallels to Pale Fire's account of a struggle over the disposition of an index-card manuscript border on the uncanny.) But in any case, before he died in 1977, Nabokov made clear that he wanted those cards destroyed.
I personally am selfish and want to read it desperately. I mean, thank god for all the work that authors wanted burned that survived--Emily Dickinson's poetry comes to mind, but I'm sure there are others. Don't do it, Dmitri!

Via Bitchypoo.


Blogger Chris said...

There's a similar controversy going on over some recently-discovered and, for the time being, hush-hush Kafka materials that turned up in a safe deposit box in Tel Aviv and Zurich:

As you say with Nabokov, it's a sticky situation here as well. Kafka asked for everything to be burned by Max Brod. Brod left everything he didn't publish himself to his secretary, who hoarded it and sold items as she needed money. Now that she's gone, the legality of her childrens' claims on the stash is more murky, and they've got everyone from the nation of Israel to rabid Kafka dorks on their tail.

On one hand, the way it's been handled so far has been skeevy. On the other, if everything had been done according to Kafka's wishes, we'd never have read any of it. Imagine! A world without the lazy catch-all phrase "Kafkaesque"!

I've got my fingers crossed for an amicable solution. I'd really love to read this early stuff!

3:01 PM  

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