I don’t know how I feel about this

Filed under: The Writing Life — marcia at 10:40 am on Saturday, April 26, 2008

Vladimir Nabokov’s son says he will publish his father’s unfinished work “The Original of Laura” rather than destroying it. Since Nabokov’s death in 1977, his son Dmitri has been torn about whether he should follow his father’s last wishes and destroy the novel or share the work of a great 20th-century novelist with the world. Now in his 70s, Dmitri says his father would want him to stop suffering and go ahead and publish it.
As a writer, it makes me itchy to think that work that I didn’t think was ready for publication would be published before I was done with it. On the other hand, I am alive and not a world-famous author of significant literature.

My scholarly interest and personal itchiness are at odds in this case. Even with the context, will this unfinished novel diminish the other works he toiled to perfect? Do historical figures lose their right to control their legacies?

Current temperature: I’m not going to read it … until eventually curiosity takes over and I do.


via Guardian Unlimited


Comment by Christopher

April 30, 2008 @ 3:22 pm

Consider this: the Roman poet Virgil asked that The Aeneid be burned because he knew he wouldn’t have time to revise it. Franz Kafka asked his friend Max Brod to destroy all his unpublished work. These were literally their dying wishes. Their instructions weren’t followed. Should they have been? I like the idea of writers having control over their work beyond the grave, but I have to draw the line at destroying their work.

Comment by Joy

May 6, 2008 @ 8:45 am

I think I agree. Works by great writers should not be destroyed. We’re all still lamenting Ted Hughes burning Sylvia Plath’s final diary, after all.

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