More on Laura

Dan Green has some interesting points re: Nabokov’s final ms:

In discussing the issues involved in this controversy, Ron Rosenbaum asks, "Does the lust for aesthetic beauty always allow us to rationalize trampling on the artist’s grave?" But the unfinished manuscript could not have "aesthetic beauty" as Nabokov would have defined the term. Aesthetic beauty emerges from the work as it is fully shaped, exhausting its creator’s artistic resources. The completed work might fail to have aesthetic beauty, but only the completed work manifests the aesthetic beauty the artist/author attempted to bring about. Nabokov wanted The Original of Laura destroyed because it coud not provide the aesthetic satisfaction he wanted his fiction to provoke above all else. (The "tingle" in the spine he himself most valued when reading works of literature.)

There are of course notable challenges to the purity of effect Nabokov demanded. Kafka wanted his incomplete work (including The Trial) similarly dispatched to oblivion, and most of us are surely glad that Max Brod, his executor, did not follow his instructions. Few would deny that even in their truncated or unpolished form Kafka’s novels provide a distinctive aesthetic experience. Perhaps The Original of Laura would also redeem itself in its fragmentary state, although from Rosenbaum’s description of it (through Dmitri Nabokov), it doesn’t seem that it will. Still, Nabokov is such a beguiling writer it is certainly possible that this 30-page manuscript has a sufficiently realized appeal that it would be a loss to literature–or at least to Nabokov’s body of work–if it were to be destroyed.

I agree wholeheartedly that since Nabokov was such a notorious stickler for not publishing an ms unless it was exactly as he wanted it (death, one would think, being an obstacle to this), that constitutes good reason to not publish it.

The Kafka point is a good one, but I think this is significantly different case: without Laura, Nabokov still leaves us a substantial body of work.


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>I agree wholeheartedly that since Nabokov was such a notorious stickler for not publishing an ms unless it was exactly as he wanted it (death, one would think, being an obstacle to this), that constitutes good reason to not publish it.
> The Kafka point is a good one, but I think this is significantly different case: without Laura, Nabokov still leaves us a substantial body of work.
That first para seems to imply that the author’s wishes should be respected. So how does the ratio of extant “official” to “unofficial” work — the distinction suggested in the second para — have any relevance?

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