Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008
Dan Green poses interesting questions on the recent news over Vladamir Nabakov. Some context:
In the Nabokov case, a manuscript the author felt should not be available will either be destroyed or be published against the author’s wishes. Whereas Carver agreed to the publication of the impure versions of his work (thus effectively claiming them as his own), here the author wanted the impure version of his work-in-progress (impure because not completed) to be withheld from publication. If we are finally able to read The Original of Laura, we would be reading something the author had not yet claimed as his own (worthy of being attributed to “Vladimir Nabokov” on the cover), something that, to Nabokov’s way of thinking, did not yet constitute a text that could be read at all in any meaningful sense. It was the finished work that Nabokov would share with his audience; the work done on the way to that finished form should not concern them.
I don’t think the manuscript should be published. It could be housed in a library and studied as a draft perhaps, if the author’s wishes go ignored. What complicates this is that there’s no draft comparison, no flow to show decision-making. Can we measure the loss of the manuscript if it is destroyed? I’d say no.
If Nabokov wanted the daft destroyed it should be put into a fireplace.
Same with Kafka. If Kafka had wanted his novels destroyed, Brod should’ve destroyed the manuscripts. If the argument back is “but then would we wouldn’t have The Trial” then my answer is “You’re right.” Can you lose something you never had?
But what were Kafka’s “interests” after his death?
Should I follow an instruction given by a deceased relative? What if this request goes against my interests?