Friday, January 18, 2008

Contemplating a Future Without Laura

It is perhaps one of literature’s most significant moral dilemmas; one worthy of Nabokov’s own work.

A stern patriarch commands that his final manuscript should never be seen. Should, in fact, be put to the match. His son and heir vacillates between obeying the wishes of his father or the clamoring of a world mad for the secret words of an author who was equally criticized and lauded.

The patriarch in question is the late Vladimir Nabokov, author of Lolita (1955), Pale Fire (1962) and Speak Memory (1967), among others. The put upon offspring is Nabokov’s son and translator, Dmitri, and the manuscript is known as The Original of Laura. And the whole affair is detailed, outlined and even sculpted a bit for Slate Magazine by Ron Rosenbaum.
Here is your chance to weigh in on one of the most troubling dilemmas in contemporary literary culture. I know I’m hopelessly conflicted about it. It's the question of whether the last unpublished work of Vladimir Nabokov, which is now reposing unread in a Swiss bank vault, should be destroyed—as Nabokov explicitly requested before he died.

It's a decision that has fallen to his sole surviving heir (and translator), Dmitri Nabokov, now 73. Dmitri has been torn for years between his father's unequivocal request and the demands of the literary world to view the final fragment of his father's genius, a manuscript known as The Original of Laura. Should Dmitri defy his father's wishes for the sake of “posterity”?
It doesn’t take much in the way of mental gymnastics to see the dilemmas involved here. In his way, Nabokov was one of the most celebrated and reviled authors of the 20th century. (Though usually not by the same readers.) There is, of course, going to be strong – even passionate – interest in this author’s final work. From a moral standpoint, sure: the manuscript should probably be destroyed. Nabokov was a wonderful writer, an important writer. Do we really want to contemplate a future without the possibility of Laura?

Rosenbaum’s Slate article examines the issue from all possible angles. And it’s here.


Anonymous Laurie King said...

The question I'd ask is, did Nabakov have the opportunity himself to destroy the manuscript? If not, if he became too infirm to get at it, then his wish should be taken seriously. But if he did, then his "wish" was just a means of tormenting others from the grave, and I say the hell with him.

Friday, January 18, 2008 8:04:00 AM PST  
Blogger tercumenette said...


Thursday, January 31, 2008 1:02:00 AM PST  

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