Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My Kinbote moment

Q: Was I indirectly responsible for the publication of Nabokov's The Original of Laura?

A: Leland de la Durantaye just sent me a link to a recent WBUR show, on which he and Brian Boyd (VN's biographer) talked about TOOL. LDLD reminded me that Ron Rosenbaum (the chief advocate for publishing TOOL vs. burning it, as VN had wished) first picked up the scent thanks to Leland's essay on Lolita at 50, which he wrote for me back at the PTSNBN (9/6/05). (I bestowed the headline "The Original of Lolita"—pas mal!)

Here was Ron Rosenbaum, in the New York Observer (11/27/05):

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I didn’t know of the existence of The Original of Laura until very recently, when I learned about its peril. I only came upon reference to it as I was thinking of writing about a surprising new disclosure in the German scholar Michael Maar’s new book, The Two Lolitas. I’d written about Maar’s “cryptomnesia” theory—which attempts to connect a 1916 German story called “Lolita” with Nabokov’s 1955 Lolita—in the April 19, 2004, issue of The Observer, when his essay was initially published in English in London’s TLS. But the new book takes a new turn. And as I was Googling to see whether anyone had seen the significance of Maar’s “Atomite”* discovery, I came across an essay by Harvard professor Leland de la Durantaye on Lolita in The Village Voice, in which he mentions the existence of The Original of Laura: “When Nabokov died in 1977, he left behind an unfinished novel entitled The Original of Laura. His express wish was that it be destroyed upon his death. Before him, Virgil and Kafka had left similar instructions [to destroy their work]; neither was obeyed. Nor was Nabokov. His wife, Véra, found herself unable to carry out her late husband’s wishes, and when she passed away in 1991 she bequeathed the decision to their son. The manuscript’s location is kept secret.”

I still haven't read it! (I don't even own it!) I'm trying not to read reviews of it for now...

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