Monday, May 5, 2008

Last Wishes

Vladimir Nabokov's son, Dmitri, has decided to posthomously publish his father's last work, the beginnings of a novel called The Original of Laura. The book is not finished and is still in pieces on 3" by 5" notecards, Nabokov's trademark writing technique. Here's an interview with Dmitri in the New York Times. Before his death, Nabokov instructed his widow and his son to burn the notes for this book and never to let it be published. So, in publishing the work, Dmitri is going directly against his father's dying wishes.

I'm torn. On one hand, there are the man's desires for his last pieces of work. And he was a perfectionist: This work is unfinished. On the other hand, the writer's work exists separate from him/her once it is completed. You do not check with the author on how to interpret a novel. So, do you need to have their permission to publish?

How important is it to honor last wishes? Do they take priority over just doing the right or reasonable thing after that person is gone?

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