Author Topic: Nabokov's "The Original of Laura" not to be destroyed  (Read 2663 times)

yesno

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Nabokov's "The Original of Laura" not to be destroyed
« on: April 25, 2008, 07:18:09 PM »
http://www.slate.com/id/2190065/?from=rss

http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/04/nabokov_original_of_laura.html

Nabokov's last novel, or sketches for a novel, to be made public.

Look, I'm all for respecting people's dying wishes and all.  But exceptions have to be made, particularly in the case of perfectionist artists.

Sarah

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Re: Nabokov's "The Original of Laura" not to be destroyed
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2008, 06:21:27 AM »
I don't approve.

Shaggy 2 Grote

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Re: Nabokov's "The Original of Laura" not to be destroyed
« Reply #2 on: April 26, 2008, 11:39:37 AM »
My wife is with you, Sarah (I suspect that you and she would a agree on a lot).  I'm a little more ambivalent.  The fan/completist/reader in me is really curious about this sort of thing, and I've been happy about the recent unearthing of unedited Raymond Carver and Jack Kerouac material.  On the other hand, though, I can only read so many books before I die and I've still got plenty of Nabokov left.
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Beth

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Re: Nabokov's "The Original of Laura" not to be destroyed
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2008, 07:53:22 PM »
I'm not in favor of this. On the other hand, I might still read it when it is published.

There was an interview on All Things Considered with Dmitri Nabokov today...they didn't really ask many hard hitting questions though (surprise, surprise).




yesno

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Re: Nabokov's "The Original of Laura" not to be destroyed
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2008, 08:07:16 PM »
I'm not sure I understand the disapproval.  Is it because it's against the author's wishes?  Because it's unfinished?

I could probably name a bunch of instances where we're better off for having disregarded an author's wishes.  I don't see much of a utilitarian case for destroying the work.  I don't see people losing their faith in wills or anything.  Maybe it's just my degenerate, amoral, and atheistic way of looking at the world talking, but I don't see much point in following a dead guy's wishes just because they were his wishes.

As long as it's not misleadingly promoted as a long-lost novel or anything, I think it's a good thing for anyone who's interested in Nabokov.


gravy boat

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Re: Nabokov's "The Original of Laura" not to be destroyed
« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2008, 08:07:12 AM »
I don't see much point in following a dead guy's wishes just because they were his wishes.



I could not disagree more.  I don't see much point in not following someone's wishes just because they are now dead.  It was his work and up to him.

yesno

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Re: Nabokov's "The Original of Laura" not to be destroyed
« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2008, 09:40:04 AM »
First off, I don't even think you'd be obligated to follow all living guys' wishes.

Second, dead people are dead.  Nothing can ever do them any harm.  You might argue that it makes *us* worse off to not follow a dead guy's wishes in some way-- you could argue that it cheapens society.  But, in this case, I'd argue that the benefit outweighs the harm.

I have a lot of respect for the Burkean argument that the social contact is not just between the living, but between the living, dead, and yet unborn.  (See Philosophy, Vol. 63, No. 243 (Jan., 1988), pp. 111-113.)  It's just that in this case, the benefit to society of having another great literary work by Nabokov outweighs all other considerations.

Pat K

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Re: Nabokov's "The Original of Laura" not to be destroyed
« Reply #7 on: May 01, 2008, 01:23:56 PM »
The Slate coverage of this has been pretty interesting.

I've got to come off in the negative on this one, in no small part because Dmitri Nabokov's reasons for deciding to publish it seem to be mainly financial. If he had a more high-minded argument for his decision I might be more inclined to respect the idea, even if I disagreed with it, but this whole malarkey about VN's ghost telling him to ca$h is a pretty low-class move.

And anyway, I could give a whole long-winded philosophical arguments, but at the end of the day there's just the gut reaction of not peeking behind the private curtain of someone's artistic process without their permission that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Artists getting to the end of their lives and deciding to clean out the archives is one thing, but a case like this where specific demands have been made, I think you've gotta respect them. VN could have had very good reasons for not wanting to publish Laura as it exists now - just because we won't ever know them doesn't make them less valid.

I think the argument that it doesn't matter if he is dead or alive holds water. What if he were still alive, and someone had stolen the manuscript and was debating to publish it despite VN's asking it to be destroyed? It's true that publishing it now that he's dead doesn't "hurt" him, but it wouldn't if he was still alive, either. I don't think wanting to see something is enough. I'm sure the majority of the FOTs who do creative stuff would agree that they wouldn't want people rooting around their business showing unfinished stuff to the world without their permission. It's the same reason that I wouldn't want to see Tom's notebook of topic ideas, or listen in on Mike screening the calls.
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yesno

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Re: Nabokov's "The Original of Laura" not to be destroyed
« Reply #8 on: May 01, 2008, 02:32:05 PM »
I think it would hurt (bother) him if it were published when he was alive without his permission.  But he died thinking it was to be destroyed, so he's no worse off.

I would totally hate to have people rooting through my unfinished work.  Of course.  Things can make a difference to me, because I'm alive.  If I die thinking the future is going to be all sunshine and roses, but instead a meteor destroys the earth the next day, I'm no worse off.

Really, I do think we're better off respecting people's wishes 99.9% of the time, particularly with creative decisions.  But not here.  I don't deal in absolutes.  Weighing the factors, it seems to me that we should preserve the work.  Maybe you come out another way.  But I'm sure there's some set of facts that would get you to agree with me, that sometimes we're better off not doing what the dead guy wanted.  Hitler's novel?  Jesus' confession?  Stupid examples, but I mean only to show that I don't think you can have an absolute, final rule about such things.  For me, the fact the I think Nabokov was probably the greatest 20th century writer probably colors my judgment.

gravy boat

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Re: Nabokov's "The Original of Laura" not to be destroyed
« Reply #9 on: May 01, 2008, 02:42:47 PM »
Second, dead people are dead.  Nothing can ever do them any harm.  You might argue that it makes *us* worse off to not follow a dead guy's wishes in some way-- you could argue that it cheapens society.  But, in this case, I'd argue that the benefit outweighs the harm.


I guess you haven't taken Wills and Estates yet. 

Pat K

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Re: Nabokov's "The Original of Laura" not to be destroyed
« Reply #10 on: May 01, 2008, 02:49:01 PM »
I'll grant you, I think the upcoming Artie Lange memoir is one case where I'll say the author's original wishes should not be followed.   i.e., Artie thinks it should be published, I think it should not. 

But then again, like Nabokov, he might not live to see it finished, either.

(Yes, I did just find a way to compare Artie Lange to Vladimir Nabokov.)
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